A painting by Vincent van Gogh that was stolen from a museum three years ago has been recovered after an intervention by ‘art detective’ Arthur Brand.
The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring, one of Van Gogh’s early works dating from 1884, was taken from the Singer Museum in Laren in March 2020. At the time it was on loan from the Groninger Museum.
A year later Nils M., from Baarn in Utrecht province, was sentenced to eight years in jail after he was traced using DNA evidence and charged with stealing two paintings worth €17 million.
Six months after stealing the Van Gogh M. broke into the Museum Hofje van Mevrouw van Aerden in Leerdam and made off with a Frans Hals painting, Two Laughing Boys with a Mug of Beer, which is still missing.
Andreas Blühm, director of the Groninger Museum, said he was delighted the Van Gogh had been returned. “For the last few years I wondered if I’d ever see it. Thankfully I was informed just before it was returned. That was better for my nerves.”
Blühm said the painting was in reasonably good condition. “I could see immediately that it was genuine. It’s slightly damaged, but repairable.”
Brand told the Telegraaf he had obtained the stolen painting through a contact in the underworld, with the knowledge of the police.
“I was always confident the work would be returned,” he said. “The last few weeks have been nerve-wracking. I couldn’t sleep a wink.”
Brand said he was was sent a text by a man who claimed to have access to the work, who arranged a rendez-vous under cover of darkness in Amsterdam. Two days later he appeared on Brand’s doorstep with the painting in an Ikea bag.
Brand said an earlier attempt to secure the return of the painting two years ago failed when secret talks with an Amersfoort-based drugs gang broke down. But he was always confident that the work would be returned.
“It was a headache not just for the police and justice department, but for those involved in the criminal circuit,” he said. “The Van Gogh was just too hot.”
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