Dutch police are investigating a smash-and-grab burglary of art by Vincent van Gogh from the Singer Laren museum in The Netherlands over the weekend. The museum is closed until June 1 due to concerns over the coronavirus.
Vincent van Gogh’s 1884 oil painting, The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen, was part of an exhibition and on loan from the Groninger Museum. Representatives at the Groninger Museum say they are “shocked” by the news and declined further comment as the investigation is ongoing. The painting had been in its collection from 1962 until earlier this year.
“We are deeply shocked, angry and sad. A beautiful and moving painting by one of our greatest artists has been withdrawn from the community. It is terrible for the Groninger Museum and also for Singer Laren, but especially for all of us. Because art is there to be shared, to enjoy, to be inspired and to be comforted, especially in times like this. Art is of great importance to our culture,” said Museum Director Jan Rudolph de Lorm in a statement.
Police say they responded after a burglar alarm was triggered at 3:15 am. A window was smashed and it appears the perpetrator made a run for it. A criminal investigation has started as forensic investigators and art robbery experts from the national investigation team analyze camera footage and interview potential witnesses. Investigators are acting according to protocol, said General Manager Evert van Os, adding that museum staff is also coordinating with insurance experts.
The burglary comes during a government-ordered nationwide stay-at-home measure currently in place until April 28. Gatherings that would normally require obtaining a permit are banned until June 1.
It is not immediately known how much the painting might be worth, but the Associated Press reports that works by van Gogh, when they rarely go on sale, fetch well into the millions. The “unusually wide” artwork measures 39-by-72 centimeters (15-by-28 inches) and was painted while the infamous loner was living in a converted laundry room at his parents’ home.
The van Gogh museum notes that the artist is one of the most famous in the history of Western art, yet only sold one painting, The Red Vineyard, during his short life. The artist infamously cut off his own ear while suffering what he called a “simple artist’s bout of craziness” during an argument with Paul Gauguin, an artist he was working and living with at the time. He then wrapped it in a piece of paper and presented it to a young woman at a local brothel, signs that led to the beginnings of an as-yet undiagnosed mental illness or “mental or nervous fever, or madness” as he called it. In 1890, van Gogh died by suicide at just 37 years old, leaving behind more than 850 paintings and almost 1,300 works on paper.
Police are asking that anyone who may have information to report it using the police tip form or by phone at 0900-8844.