Dutch art detective Arthur Brand, known for his ability to recover stolen artwork, has successfully retrieved a Vincent van Gogh painting that was stolen over three years ago. The painting, titled "Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring," went missing in March 2020 during a nighttime robbery at the Singer Laren museum in Amsterdam, where it was on loan from the Groninger Museum. Brand played a crucial role in the recovery of the artwork, which he noted was stolen on Van Gogh's birthday.
The stolen painting was returned to the Groninger Museum by the Dutch police after a tip from an anonymous individual. The painting was delivered to Brand's apartment in an Ikea bag, wrapped multiple times in bubble wrap and cushioned packaging. The 10-by-22-inch oil on paper painting depicts a person standing in a garden surrounded by trees, with a church tower in the background.
Brand had received photographs of the stolen painting as "proof of life" a few months after its theft. The photos were circulated within Mafia circles and featured the painting alongside a book about a thief who stole two other Van Gogh paintings and a copy of the New York Times discussing the thief's own heist.
In 2021, Dutch police arrested a 58-year-old man, identified as Nils M, on suspicion of stealing multiple paintings, including the Van Gogh work. However, the police did not recover the stolen paintings at the time of the arrest. The police noted that artworks can be used as collateral in organized crime and intercepted messages that provided insights into the criminal trade of valuable objects.
The Groninger Museum has not disclosed the details of how they ultimately recovered the painting, but they assured the public that it is still in good condition. However, the painting has suffered some damage during its time away from the museum. The museum plans to hang the painting in its galleries, but it may take a few months after restoration for that to happen.
The return of the painting also raises questions about ownership, as an insurance company had already paid out for the loss and now owns the artwork. However, the Groninger Museum asserts its right of first purchase for the painting. In the Netherlands, a person found guilty of art theft can face up to eight years in prison.
themes: New York (state)