Johan Meijering appealed the interlocutory decision of January 30th, 2008 by the District Court of Assen, and focused the proceedings on five paintings instead of ten. The Leeuwarden Court of Appeal would declare two paintings fake and order Cor van L. to pay damages. A look will be taken at the reasoning of the court to declare two paintings fake and three paintings dubious.
The appeal case was instigated on January 30th, 2008 but the Court of Appeal’s decision on the authenticity of the five paintings wasn’t reached until September 24th, 2012. This decision only saw to the authenticity of the paintings, the decision on the height of the damages was referred back to the Assen Court.
The decision on Authenticity
What’s important with this case is how the judges reached their verdict on the authenticity of the paintings. The first important aspect here is the fact that the Appeal Court recognized the subjective nature of the evidence it was presented with; recognizing that, due to the nature of authenticating a painting, experience and feeling play a significant role for the experts in their decision-making process. This is of importance because it is a recognition of the fact that in a court of law, where objective facts are usually the foundation for any proceedings, the inherently subjective nature of authentication research based on stylistic grounds does meet the necessary evidentiary requirements of the court.
Sadly, this recognition is completely nullified by the discarding of the conclusions of the experts based on the actions of the suing party Meijering. The Court of Appeal makes the peculiar decision that Meijering’s withdrawal of five paintings from the dispute (of which the same experts had also stated they were fake) creates a reason to doubt his claim. The court concluded that the withdrawal of the five paintings showed, that there had apparently been doubts about the authenticity of the five withdrawn paintings, even though they had also been declared false by the experts. This undermined the trustworthiness of the experts’ conclusions insomuch that they were not followed by the Court of Appeal. This line of reasoning is puzzling, as the competence of the experts and the soundness of their conclusions were not judged by their own merits, but by the actions of Meijering and his legal council. This line of reasoning is dangerous, as not the experts themselves but the parties then gain control over the competence of the experts, which undermines the experts’ professional status and academic research.
The Judges did, however, follow the conclusions of expert 2, Milko den Leeuw of Atelier voor Restauratie & Research van Schilderijen (A.R.R.S.) on the authenticity of two paintings, namely Pic de Luc and Het Reitdiep, both supposedly painted by Jan Altink, but in fact forgeries alledgedly made by Van L. Den Leeuw found the pigment CI Pigment Yellow in both paintings, which wasn’t introduced to the market until the late 1950’s. This means that the paint wasn’t yet available at the time the paintings were supposed to have been painted by Altink. Expert 2 and 1 give several other reasons for the painting being inauthentic, based on further technical examination. The court dismisses these reasons, but follows the conclusion of expert 2 based on the found yellow pigment, and therefore declares the two previously mentioned paintings inauthentic.
The Court of Appeal ended its verdict by stating that only the dispute on authenticity had been concluded. The height of the damages and compensation to be paid by Van L. were referred back to the Assen Court.
 Leeuwarden Court of Appeal, 24 juli 2012, ECLI:NL:GHLEE:2012:BX2307, r.o. 22.
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