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Stolen Van Gogh Painting Is Returned to Museums in the Netherlands After Three Years

Singer Museum in Laren, Netherlands

The Van Gogh painting was stolen from the Singer Laren Museum in Laren, Netherlands on March 30, 2020. (Photo: Singer Laren via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0 International)

On March 30, 2020, Van Gogh's birthday, one of the artist's paintings was stolen from the Singer Laren Museum in the Netherlands. The early masterpiece, titled Spring Garden, The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring, was on loan from the Groninger Museum. At the time of the heist, the Singer was shuttered due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the loss of one of Van Gogh's paintings shocked the art community. However, after years of search and some negotiation, the work of art was finally returned, tucked inside an oversized IKEA shopping bag.

In order to track down Spring Garden, the Dutch police worked alongside world-famous art detective Arthur Brand. The Dutch investigator previously helped recover stolen paintings of Tamara de Lempicka, Pablo Picasso, and Salvador Dalí. In the case of the missing Van Gogh work, the thief behind the 2020 heist was arrested the following year in April 2021, but without the painting in tow. Authorities quickly deduced that the man, referred to as Nils M., was working on orders from Dutch shipping mogul Peter Roy K. to steal the Van Gogh for leverage. Precious works of art like Spring Garden are often used for negotiations in the criminal underworld. However, the thieves didn't anticipate how the painting's notoriety would make it nearly impossible to use, so it remained hidden somewhere, far away from the museums.

“We knew that the painting would go from one hand to another hand in the criminal world, but that nobody really wanted to touch it,” Brand explains. “You could only get in trouble. So it was a little bit cursed.” After some time, the famous detective was contacted by someone who knew of the Van Gogh painting's location and wanted to return it but did not want to be implicated in any way. Negotiating took some time, but finally, on September 12, 2023, the valuable work—estimated to be worth between $3 million and $4 million—was dropped off at Brand's home in Amsterdam with the help of a blue IKEA bag.

In an official statement, the Groninger Museum, which owns Spring Garden, said: “The Groninger Museum is extremely happy and relieved that the work is back. It is currently in good company in the Van Gogh Museum. We are very grateful to our colleagues in Amsterdam for their hospitality. On behalf of all our staff, all Groningen residents and visitors, we are very grateful to everyone who contributed to this good outcome. Arthur Brand played a key role in this case and the museum greatly appreciates that.”

Now that the painting is in safe hands, it will undergo an extensive examination by conservators, followed by a lengthy restoration. It will likely be put on display in the upcoming months, depending on its condition.

On March 30, 2020, a Vincent van Gogh painting titled Spring Garden, The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring was stolen from the Singer Laren Museum in the Netherlands.

Stolen Van Gogh Painting From Singer Museum

Vincent van Gogh, “Spring Garden, The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring,” 1884, Groninger Museum, 1884 (Photo: Marten de Leeuw © Groninger Museum)

World-famous art detective Arthur Brand was enlisted to track down the precious painting.

Authorities believed the thief who stole the painting did so on orders from Dutch shipping mogul Peter Roy K. to be used as leverage in negotiations.

Singer Museum in Laren, the Netherlands

Front entrance of the Singer Laren Museum. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

However, due to the painting's notoriety, it was unusable in the criminal underworld, and someone who wasn't involved with the actual heist contacted Brand. They negotiated a way to return the stolen Van Gogh.

On September 12, 2023, Van Gogh's Spring Garden was returned to Arthur Brand, packed inside an oversized IKEA bag.

After an examination and restoration, the painting will be put on display again.

Arthur Brand: Instagram | Twitter
h/t: [Smithsonian Mag]

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Margherita Cole

Margherita Cole is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met and illustrator based in Southern California. She holds a BA in Art History with a minor in Studio Art from Wofford College, and an MA in Illustration: Authorial Practice from Falmouth University in the UK. She wrote and illustrated an instructional art book about how to draw cartoons titled 'Cartooning Made Easy: Circle, Triangle, Square' that was published by Walter Foster in 2022.
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