'Proof of Life' Photos of Stolen Van Gogh Emerge

Art detective says thief could be looking for a buyer
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 19, 2020 7:01 AM CDT

(Newser) – The Vincent van Gogh painting stolen from a Dutch museum in March has turned up—in a pair of photographs. The "proof of life" photos show the front and back of the small painting, Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring, next to a copy of the New York Times' international edition dated May 30, reports ArtNet News. A scratch, apparently obtained during the raid, can be seen on the bottom of the 1884 painting, valued at $6.6 million, reports the Guardian. "There is no doubt in my mind that this is the genuine article," says renowned art detective Arthur Brand—known as the "Indiana Jones of the art world," per the BBC—who received the photos from an unnamed source and tweeted images of them. Brand tells AFP that the photos had been "circulating in mafia circles" and "it could simply be that they are trying to find a buyer in the criminal underworld."

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Also seen in the photos is a copy of Meesterdief (Master Thief), a Dutch-language biography of Octave Durham, who stole two Van Gogh paintings from the Van Gogh Museum in 2002, per ArtNet. Brand says the book backs up his theory that this was a copycat theft (Durham is not a suspect as he was hospitalized during the theft). In the case of the March 30 smash-and-grab at the Singer Laren museum, which had been closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, surveillance video shows the suspect using a sledgehammer to break through layers of protective glass before dashing out of the museum with the piece tucked under his arm. The painting had been on loan from the Groninger Museum, 100 miles to the northeast. The Singer Laren museum had suffered another theft, of seven statues from its garden, in 2007. (Read more Vincent Van Gogh stories.)

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