Stolen Van Gogh Painting Recovered in an IKEA Bag Will Go on Display

Stolen, Now Recovered, Van Gogh Painting on Display

Van Gogh in a self-portrait, 1887. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Public domain)

Artist Vincent van Gogh is one of the world's most famous painters in art history. Known for cutting off his own ear in a depressed period in later life, the painter was a leading figure in the Post-Impressionism movement. But before his vivid swirls and vases of sunflowers, Van Gogh was inspired by realist painters such as Jean-François Millet. His early works were scenes of everyday life, such as shoes with laces undone, prisoners, peasants, and tranquil country scenes. Among these works is a small canvas called Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring. Painted in 1884, the work was dramatically stolen in 2020, returned in an IKEA bag in 2023, and now it will be on display to the public for the first time since this chain of events.

The painting was stolen while it was on loan to the Singer Laren Museum outside Amsterdam in the Netherlands. As the world locked down in March 2020, thieves snuck into the shutter museum, smashed glass, and made off with the painting under their arm. Covered on camera, the identity of the thief and his criminal backers was eventually discovered by law enforcement. However, the painting was not recovered. Art detective Arthur Brand says, “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 because it wasn’t worth anything. You could only get in trouble. So it was a little bit cursed.”

Brand told media that someone holding the painting even totally contacted him, and with permission of authorities he organized a drop by the unnamed individual. The individual came to Brand's home with the painting wrapped in bubble wrap, placed inside a pillow case, and encased in a classic blue Ikea bag.

The painting was quickly verified to be the true Van Gogh. Unfortunately, it now has a visible white gash that goes through the many layers of paint and varnish. Marjan de Visser, a conservator, has already begun working to clean the old varnish and learn more about the materials of the painting so that it can be preserved for generations. De Visser explains, “This is how the young Van Gogh painted, before he went to art academy in Antwerp.”

After its three year adventure, the painting was finally returned to its owner, the Groninger Museum. Now, it has triumphantly been presented to the media, and will soon go on view to the public. Starting March 29, 2024, visitors will be able to view the piece at the Groninger Museum. It now presents a fascinating spectacle of both one of the world's greatest artists and one of the world's most recent dramatic art thefts.

A painting by Vincent van Gogh, titled Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring, was stolen in 2020, and mysteriously returned in an IKEA bag after three years.

Embed from Getty Images

Now, it will go on display to the public in March 2024.

Embed from Getty Images

h/t: [The Guardian]

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Madeleine Muzdakis

Madeleine Muzdakis is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met and a historian of early modern Britain & the Atlantic world. She holds a BA in History and Mathematics from Brown University and an MA in European & Russian Studies from Yale University. Madeleine has worked in archives and museums for years with a particular focus on photography and arts education. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys hiking, film photography, and studying law while cuddling with her cat Georgia.
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