Robbers taunt police with photos of stolen Van Gogh
Photos have surfaced of a stolen painting by Van Gogh but police are no nearer to solving the case, the Parool reports.
Spring garden, the vicarage garden at Nuenen in springtime (1884) was stolen from the Singer Museum in Laren at the end of March this year. Photos of the work were sent to Dutch stolen art detective Arthur Brand, who said the work seems to have sustained only minor damage.
Proof the painting is still in existence is a copy of the New York Times of May 30th. ‘The photos have been put into circulation in criminal circles as a sign to potential buyers that it is available’, Brand said.
The paper in the photo carries an interview with Brand. ‘The criminals are having their little joke. They are telling me: you think you can track us down but we are on your trail as well. I think that is pretty funny.’
Brand said the robbery at the Singer Museum appears to be a copycat repeat of the 2002 robbery at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam when two works by Van Gogh were taken. These turned up 14 years later in Italy where a mafia boss had used them as collateral in exchange for a more lenient sentence.
‘These boys are doing the same. That is why there is a copy of the book Meesterdief (Master thief) in the photo, a book about the 20002 robbery,’ Brand told the paper.
It is difficult to tell what the effect of the photos will be, Brand said. ‘They might scare off [or make] potential buyers afraid to touch it. But it may also frighten a mafia boss into action. I hope he doesn’t sell the painting on because that means it will be a long time before it surfaces again.’
Andreas Blühm, director of the Gronnger Museum, told DutchNews.nl that he was pleased to see it still exists but puzzled by the motivation of the thieves in sharing the images of the painting – which is now effectively owned by the insurance company.
‘I believe that the photos are genuine: the back side of a painting is not published and you can only take a picture of it if you have it,’ he said. ‘The real question is what the purpose is to promote the photos publicly.’
He told DutchNews.nl that there may be a scratch on the painting, but more worrying is that it has been roughly handled and is now outside a carefully-controlled museum atmosphere.
‘It should be in a good frame or a good environment such as a museum where the climate is stable. It’s an oil painting on paper on panel – it’s sensitive to light, although not as badly as a drawing. When we give a painting on loan, every museum has the same conditions, temperature and humidity and you should take care that changes are very gradual.
‘If somebody takes it off the wall, out of the frame and drives it away with a motorcycle, that’s not ideal. There will certainly be some kind of damage but I hope it’s not too substantial.’
He added that the theft is a theft from everyone in society. ‘It was in a museum for everybody to enjoy,’ he said.
Police have said the photos are now part of the investigation.
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