How many people does it take to steal an invaluable Van Gogh painting? Just one, apparently. A 58-year old suspect has been arrested in relation to the recent theft of two paintings, one of which being an early Van Gogh.
On March 30 2020, Vincent van Gogh’s The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring was stolen from the Singer Laren Museum. Arriving on a motorbike in the early hours of the morning, the thief used a sledgehammer to break through the museum’s reinforced glass front door.
Although the museum was closed at the time to support pandemic efforts, the alarm went off at 3AM CEST and triggered a raid. In spite of the quick response by police, the suspect ran out of the building with the painting tucked under his arm.
While COVID restrictions may be easing up with the approach of spring, the vigilance of the Dutch police certainly is not. An unnamed 58-year old man was arrested in his home town of Baarn on Tuesday. The stolen masterpieces, however, remain lost.
Photos distributed in mafia circles
Arthur Brand, fondly referred to as “the Indiana Jones of the art world” with his ability to uncover lost paintings, attained a photograph of Van Gogh’s stolen painting posed next to a New York Times article published on the day of the theft. With Brand’s help, police now know this photograph has been distributed in mafia circles.
These verified “proof of life” pictures (taken of the painting in an undisclosed location) show a new scratch on the painting’s bottom. Police believe this damage befell the work during the thief’s escape from the museum. In these photographs, the back of the artwork can be seen; adding Brand’s verification of authenticity.
A valued loan
As if the theft of the coveted Van Gogh isn’t distressing enough, adding to the strain of the situation is that the painting was on loan from the Groninger Museum and was the only piece by Van Gogh in this museum’s collection.
The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring is of the site of a vicarage garden and was produced by Van Gogh between 1883 and 1884. What’s worse is that this oil painting was seized on Van Gogh’s 167th birthday. Talk about a coincidence…
Unfortunately, this work is not the only Dutch masterpiece suspected to have been stolen by the recently-arrested suspect. The 17th-century Frans Hals’ piece, titled Two Laughing Boys, was abducted in August from the Hofje van Mevrouw van Aerden Museum in Leerdam, just five months after Van Gogh’s The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring was taken.
Despite the arrest of the suspect, police report that neither paintings have resurfaced. Both have been added to Interpol’s international list of stolen artworks.
Van Gogh, the mafia, and a real life Indiana Jones? What are your thoughts on this story? Tell us in the comments below!
Feature Image: Groninger Museum/Press Release.