Home Corporate Events Dutch Art Sleuth Unearths Stolen Van Gogh Hidden in an Ikea Bag

Dutch Art Sleuth Unearths Stolen Van Gogh Hidden in an Ikea Bag

by Ikenna Ngere

After a three-and-a-half-year search, a Van Gogh painting stolen from a Dutch museum in March 2020 has been returned.

A man who arrived to his front door, according to Dutch art sleuth Arthur Brand, brought him the 139-year-old painting wrapped in a pillow and an Ikea bag.

“I did this in complete co-ordination with Dutch police and we knew this guy wasn’t involved in the theft,” he said.

A career criminal was sentenced to eight years in prison for the incident in 2021.

However, the painting, which was valued several million euros at the time, had already been sold.

The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring was originally stolen from Laren, a Dutch town south-east of Amsterdam. At the onset of the coronavirus lockdown, the robber broke two glass doors at the Singer Museum with a sledgehammer.

It was on loan from a museum in Groningen, a city in the region’s northeast, which hailed the piece’s rescue as “wonderful news.”

A few months after taking the piece and a Frans Hals picture from a museum in Leerdam, close to Utrecht, the French-born criminal Nils M, 59, who lived not far from Laren, was found guilty. The two crime scenes both contained his DNA.

The Van Gogh painting from 1884, commonly known as Spring Garden, was purchased by a criminal group with the intention of using it as payment for leniency, according to correspondence that authorities intercepted.

According to Mr. Brand, who has worked with Dutch police to find the piece, it would travel from one gang to another in the criminal underworld since no one would want to touch it. He said this in an interview with the BBC.

Photos of the Van Gogh that served as “proof of life” were delivered to him as early as June 2020.

He was eventually reached by a man in Amsterdam who volunteered to return the painting in exchange for complete confidentiality, partially because continuing to hold onto the painting had become a hassle.

“I was at a birthday party and he was waiting under a tree and he explained to me why he wanted to do this,” Mr Brand told the BBC.

The Groninger museum director was waiting on the corner in a pub to authenticate the painting when it was delivered to him at his home on Monday afternoon.

He stated that a pillow that had been used to shield it was stained with blood because the man had cut his finger while attempting to retrieve it.

The recovered painting is legitimate, according to a spokesman for the Dutch police arts crime unit, and Andreas Blühm, director of the Groninger museum, expressed his happiness at its safe return.

It may take weeks or months before The Spring Garden is put back on display; it is currently in the care of the Van Gogh Museum, whose experts will assist in the restoration.

The director said he would not lend it out any more as he was too traumatised.


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