Wednesday 30 November 2022

Van Gogh painting stolen from museum during coronavirus shutdown

Detail from stolen painting by Vincent van Gogh: Parish Garden in Nuenen, Spring

Image from Groninger Museum

A painting by Vincent van Gogh has been stolen overnight from a museum where it was being displayed on loan.

The work from 1884, titled The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring, was taken at around 3.15am on Monday from the Singer Museum in Laren, near Hilversum. The thieves gained entry by forcing open the glass front door.

Singer Museum said there had been no lapse in its security procedures. ‘We have established that with our insurance experts, but clearly there are lessons for us to learn.’

The painting was on loan from the Groninger Museum. Both museums are currently closed because of the coronavirus restrictions.

‘I am shocked and incredibly annoyed,’ museum director Jan Rudolph de Lorm said. ‘This is dreadful for the Groninger Museum, for Singer Laren and for all of us. Art is there for people to enjoy and be consoled by, especially in these difficult times.’

Art detective Arthur Brand said the raid appeared to have been carried out by  professional thieves. ‘Usually they can do the job in two or three minutes. They go in well prepared with a tight schedule and stopwatches.’

Brand said criminals usually stole paintings either to sell them back to the museum, use as security in an underworld deal or as a bargaining chip to secure a reduced sentence for another crime.

Significance

A spokeswoman from the Van Gogh museum said that in the period, Van Gogh was trying to evoke a sense of melancholy and romance with his depictions of the parsonage garden.

Van Gogh made this work in the early spring of 1884, together with a series of pen drawings with a similar subject,’ she explained. ‘It is also a study of colour effects, and Van Gogh refers to the work as such in a letter to Van Rappard (letter no. 435, 8 March 1884): “Am also searching for the colour of the winter garden. But it’s already a spring garden — by now. And it’s changed a lot.'”

She added:  ‘Partly due to the presence of the female figure, it is an atmospheric, engaging work [and] the old clock tower in the background held special significance for Van Gogh.’

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