After years of searching, an art detective has recovered a Vincent van Gogh painting that was stolen from a Dutch museum.
The painting, The Parsonage garden at Nuenen in Spring (1884), was taken from the Singer Laren museum in Laren, east of Amsterdam, in March 2020—just weeks after the institution had closed due to the pandemic. A suspect was arrested a year later, but the artwork, which had been on loan from the nearby Groninger Museum, remained missing.
Not anymore. It was retrieved days ago by the Dutch art sleuth Arthur Brand, who convened with an unnamed contact in Amsterdam for a hand-off. The van Gogh was wrapped in an old pillowcase and turned over in an Ikea bag.
“Arthur Brand, in cooperation with the Dutch police, has solved this matter,” officer Richard Bronswijk told Al Jazeera. “This is definitely the real one, there’s no doubt about it.”
The private detective, who has helped locate more than 200 stolen artworks in his career, said that the person who returned the painting was not involved in its theft. The artwork has since been transferred to the van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam for conservation.
“The Groninger Museum is extremely happy and relieved that the work is back,” the institution’s director, Andreas Blühm, wrote in a statement. The museum explained that “the painting has suffered, but is—at first glance—still in good condition.” It may take “weeks, if not months” before the artwork is returned to the Groninger, the museum added.
Brand took to Instagram today to reveal the recovered painting.
“Finally, it’s here. It’s back,” Brand said in the video. “I’m going to hand it over in a couple of minutes to the museum director. And afterward I’m going to have a drink with all the police officers who were involved in recovering this beautiful piece by Vincent van Gogh.”
Brand did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Parsonage garden at Nuenen in Spring was stolen on around 3:15 a.m. on March 30, 2020—the date of van Gogh’s birthday—when a burglar smashed through a glass door at the entrance to the Singer Laren. Responding to alarms, authorities arrived on scene shortly thereafter, but by then the thieves had already absconded with the artwork.
Brand, based in the Netherlands, was on the case immediately. He said at the time that he took it as a “personal insult” that the theft occurred on his home turf. By June of that year, he uncovered a crucial clue: a hostage-style photograph of the van Gogh painting next to a then-current edition of the New York Times and a biography of a master art thief.
The following April, a 58-year-old male suspect—referred to as “Nils M” in Dutch media reports—was arrested. He has since been found guilty of stealing the van Gogh as well as a Frans Hals painting from a museum in Leerdam and sentenced to eight years in prison.