An early Van Gogh painting has been stolen from a closed Dutch museum. As more and more institutions around the world have been closed, some thieves are capitalizing on the opportunities provided by those closures. The most recent issue was reported by AP News.
In the very early hours on Monday March 30, the painting “The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring 1884” by the Dutch master Vincent van Gogh was stolen from the Singer Laren Museum in Amsterdam. The theft was perpetrated by means of a simple smash and grab, breaking a door in the building’s glass facade.
The museum is home to the collection of William and Anna Singer, an American couple. The General Director, Evert van Os, told reported that the museum was angry, shocked, and saddened by theft.
The painting was on loan from the Groninger Museum in Groningen, another Dutch city, in the northern part of the country. Museum director Jan Rudolph de Lorme described himself as being ‘incredibly shocked and unbelievably pissed off.’ He went on to say that the loss of the painting is not only bad for both museums, but for the public in general, since art is meant to be seen by everyone as a source of joy and comfort, particularly in the current difficult time. The painting has been added to Interpol’s database of stolen art.
The police said that the party responsible for the theft entered the building by smashing a glass door. That set off an alarm which summoned police, but the thief and the painting escaped the scene of the crime before the police could arrive. Forensic art specialists and other investigators examined the footage from video cameras and agreed that the museum’s security measure behaved as they were supposed to, but evidently those measures weren’t enough to keep the painting safe. Van Os remarked that obviously, the theft posed a learning opportunity.
While the exact value of this specific painting isn’t known, the New York Post reported that its estimated value is somewhere between $1.1 and $6.6 million. Even though its value is still unknown, that estimate is probably pretty sound since, in general, Van Gogh’s works sell for millions of dollars, making it a real financial, as well as cultural, loss for the Groninger Museum.
The work is approximately 10 inches by 22 inches, and is an oil painting done on paper. It shows a figure standing on a path in a garden which is surrounded by trees. You can see a church tower in the background. Van Gogh lived in Nuenen from the end of 1883 to the end of 1885. He lived with his father, who was the pastor, and made a number of drawings and paintings of the grounds of the Parsonage, including the garden and the building’s street facade. The tower in the background is the ruins of the old village church, and it appealed to the artist, who created a number of works in which it featured at the time.
He was living in Nuenen when he created a number of paintings, including his famous work ‘The Potato Eaters.’ His work from that period revolved around images of life in a relatively rural area of the Netherlands, and was done in pretty subdued colors. It wasn’t until after he moved to France that he began working in brighter shades and creating famous works such as Starry Night and Sunflowers.
Investigations into the theft will continue, but finding stolen art can often be a challenge. This theft of a cultural treasure follows on the heels of an attempted theft in France which occurred last month, when two men in Paris were caught attempting to steal stones from Notre Dame Cathedral after the restoration of the church had been shut down.