Why Are Thieves Stealing the Same Frans Hals Painting?
In August 2020, thieves stole Frans Hals’ 1626 painting Two Laughing Boys with a Mug of Beer from the Museum Hofje van Mevrouw van Aerden in Leerdam, the Netherlands. Theft of a work of art is not uncommon, but the circumstances in which this painting was stolen stood out – this was the third time it was stolen since 1988. What is it that makes this particular painting so special? so tempting? Is there perhaps a master thief out there obsessed with depictions of beer in art?
Graham Bowley wrote in the New York Times looking for answers to Hals’ frequently stolen artwork. Surprising information Bowley discovered suggests some sort of cyclical pattern when it comes to Hals’ painting. Art detective Arthur Brand told the Times that thieves sometimes steal art as a kind of negotiation chip. The fact that the neck painting has already been stolen several times suggests that it might not be too difficult to steal again.
The idea of stealing art to use as a bargaining chip is not new – it appears, for example, in this 1985 New York Times article. “Across Europe, prosecutors are generally willing to lessen a criminal’s sentence if they can offer a valuable stolen work of art in exchange,” wrote Mark Joseph Stern in 2013 at Slate.
Is the solution to the multiple thefts of Hals’ painting as simple as search engine results and its relatively compact size? Sometimes the simplest solutions can also be the most accurate.
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