A Dutch art detective has found a valuable painting by Vincent van Gogh that was stolen from a museum during the coronavirus pandemic lockdown three and a half years ago, law enforcement confirmed Tuesday.
"Arthur Brand, in cooperation with the Dutch police, solved this problem," Richard Bronswijk of the Dutch police's art crime unit told AFP. “It’s definitely the real thing, there’s no doubt about it,” he added of the painting.
The detective took possession of the missing painting, "The Nuenen Presbytery Garden in Spring", from 1884, at his home in Amsterdam on Monday. The work, whose value is estimated between three and six million euros, was stolen from the Singer Laren museum on March 30, 2020 during a heist that made headlines around the world.
Mr. Brand, nicknamed "the Indiana Jones of the art world" for tracking down a series of high-profile missing works, said his and Dutch police's frequent calls for returning them finally bore fruit when a man, whose identity was not revealed for his own safety, handed the detective the painting in a blue IKEA bag, covered in bubble wrap and placed in a pillowcase. pillow.
A video clip provided by the detective showed him unwrapping the painting in his living room, stunned by the discovery. “Confirming that it was indeed the stolen Van Gogh was one of the greatest moments of my life,” Mr Brand told AFP. “I couldn’t believe it,” he continued.
Dutch police video footage released shortly after the burglary showed a burglar smashing through a glass door at the museum near Amsterdam in the middle of the night, before fleeing with the painting hidden under his right arm.
In April 2021, police arrested a man, identified by Dutch media as Nils M. for the theft. He was later convicted and sentenced to eight years in prison.
Nils M. was also convicted of stealing a Frans Hals masterpiece entitled “Two Young Men Laughing,” during another robbery.
“After a few months, I learned from a source in the criminal world who it was who had bought the Van Gogh” from Nils M, said Mr. Brand, who became known for his remarkable recoveries of Stolen works of art, including bronze statues of "Hitler's Horses", a Picasso painting and a ring that belonged to Oscar Wilde.
The man was currently behind bars for a separate case involving the large-scale import and export of cocaine, the art detective said.
Dutch media identified the man as Peter Roy K., who was sentenced to 12 years in prison as the buyer, wanting to use the painting as collateral to negotiate a reduction in his sentence.
Mr. Brand confirmed the identity of Peter Roy K., adding that he had insisted that there be "no agreement for a reduced sentence."
The whereabouts of the Van Gogh painting were still unknown two weeks ago, when the detective was contacted by a man saying he wanted to return it.
After a negotiation, Mr Brand persuaded the man – who the detective said had “nothing to do with the theft” – to return the work of art which dates from the start of Van Gogh’s career, before the prolific artist embarked on his post-impressionist paintings like “Sunflowers” and his striking self-portraits.
“The man said to me, ‘I want to return the Van Gogh. "It caused me a lot of trouble because it couldn't be used as a bargaining chip, Mr. Brand said.
“Thanks to an operation carried out in close coordination with the Dutch police, we recovered the painting,” the detective said.
The Van Gogh was returned to the director of the Groningen museum who had loaned it to the Singer Karen Museum.
The painting “Two Young Men Laughing” by Frans Hals remains missing, but Mr. Brand expressed hope that it too will be returned soon.
09/12/2023 2:52:21 p.m. - The Hague (AFP) - ©2023 AFP