Stolen van Gogh Was Returned in Ikea Bag

Dutch art detective said it had become a 'hot potato' in criminal underworld
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 12, 2023 5:17 PM CDT
Dutch 'Indiana Jones' Recovers Stolen van Gogh
This undated handout photo shows "The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring," 1884, by Vincent van Gogh, at the Groninger Museum, Netherlands.   (Marten de Leeuw/Groningen Museum via AP)

A Dutch art detective known as the "Indiana Jones of the art world" has recovered a Vincent van Gogh painting stolen from a museum in Amsterdam during a COVID lockdown in March 2020. In a video posted on Instagram Tuesday, Arthur Brand displayed the 1884 painting Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring, reports ABC News. "Here it is! The Spring Garden by Vincent van Gogh which was stolen three and a half years ago on van Gogh's birthday from a museum in the Netherlands," he said. "We have searched for it for more than three and a half years."

The painting was stolen by a man who used a sledgehammer to smash the museum's glass doors on March 30, 2020. The thief was caught and sentenced to eight years but the painting had changed hands by the time he was arrested, along with intermediaries. The painting, valued at $6.6 million, remained missing until it was delivered to Brand's Amsterdam apartment Monday night, protected by a pillow inside a blue Ikea bag. Brand tells the BBC he was approached by somebody who offered to exchange it in return for complete confidentiality. "I was at a birthday party and he was waiting under a tree and he explained to me why he wanted to do this," he says.

Brand says publicity around the theft had made the painting a "hot potato" for criminals, the Guardian reports. "We knew that the painting would go from one hand to another hand in the criminal world, but that nobody really wanted to touch it," he says. "You could only get in trouble. So it was a little bit cursed." After the handover, the painting was authenticated by museum director Andreas Blühm, who says he was "super relieved" to have it safely returned. The painting is believed to have sustained a few scratches during its years in the criminal underworld but nothing that restorers can't handle. (More art theft stories.)

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