Man Suspected of Van Gogh and Hals Painting Thefts Arrested
These are two paintings by two great Dutch artists, Vincent van Gogh and Frans Hals. Both were recorded within a few months of each other last year and left gaping holes on the walls of two small museums in the Netherlands.
The number of thefts has mystified the Dutch police, who had been conducting months of intense investigations, and announced a breakthrough on Tuesday: They identified a single suspect they said was involved in both robberies, an unidentified 58-year-old who early Tuesday morning was arrested at his home in Baarn, a small town between Utrecht and Amsterdam, near the place where one of the works, the van Gogh, was recorded.
“For months there has been intensive research into the robbery of both paintings,” said police in the central Netherlands region in a press release. “This led to the arrest of a 58-year-old male suspect from Baarn. He was arrested at his home this morning. The man is suspected of stealing the pictures. “
The pictures are still missing and police did not reveal details of how the man was arrested, but the arrest is an important step in ensuring the restoration of the artwork, the press release said.
“It’s an amazing job by the Dutch police,” said Arthur Brand, a private art detective who followed both cases. “Usually a team is cut after two months because they know they are going nowhere. But they went on and on and now they have arrested a man who may have stolen both of them. In such cases you don’t see that much. “
The van Gogh painting, which was stolen last March, comes from the Singer Laren Museum in Laren, about eight kilometers from Baarn.
The painting “The Parish Garden in Nuenen in Spring” from 1884 was part of a temporary exhibition in the Singer Laren, which was loaned from the Groninger Museum. Surveillance cameras from the March 30th robbery showed a man breaking into the museum with a sledgehammer to smash two glass doors and walking with the painting under his arm.
The second work is a painting by the master of the Golden Age, Frans Hals, from the 17th century. It was stolen from the wall of a tiny museum, the Museum Hofje van Mevrouw van Aerden in Leerdam, about 30 miles south of Baarn, in August last year. The painting “Two Laughing Boys with a Mug of Beer” was completed around 1628 when Hals was in his forties.
The Hofje is a poor house for unmarried women, in which the collection of the 18th century founder Maria van Aerden is on display. The painting hung in the Hofje for more than two centuries and had gained some notoriety beyond its artistic achievement, as the theft in August was the third time it was stolen from the same small museum. The painting was previously stolen in 2011 and 1988, but recovered both times.
In August, thieves broke in, apparently by pushing open the back door and sounding the alarm at around 3:30 a.m. local time. Police said there was a video of two people on a scooter approaching the museum in the middle of the night. The video captured the two people who drove away on the scooter shortly after their arrival. One of them was holding something large, like a painting.
Brand said he was surprised to learn that the suspect stole both works from two different museums at different times. He theorized on Dutch public television that the thefts might be related, but only because he believed that there was a high demand in the Dutch underworld for works of art that people accused of drug crimes might have against lesser ones Could exchange fines.
The thief, Brand said, “has apparently done it before and he knows what he did and why he did it.”
Karina Smrkovsky, a spokeswoman for the Groninger Museum in Groningen, which owns the van Gogh painting, said the museum had no further information on the man arrested by police, but was encouraged that the move could help ensure the painting’s return to secure.
“We hope that it will be found soon because that is the most important step for us,” said Ms. Smrkovsky. “We hope this leads to information that will bring the painting back to the museum, where it belongs.”