A painting by Vincent van Gogh stolen from the Singer Laren Museum in Laren over three years ago has been recovered. The painting, titled The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring, is back with the Groninger Museum, art detective Arthur Brand told the Telegraaf.
The painting was on loan from the Groninger Museum to the Singer Laren when it got stolen on 30 March 2020. During the first coronavirus lockdown, a man entered the Singer at night, smashed several glass doors with a sledgehammer, and walked out with the multi-million euro work tucked under his arm.
In April 2021, the authorities matched DNA traces found after the theft with Nils M., a French-born career criminal. He was sentenced to eight years in prison for the robbery of The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring and another painting stolen from a museum in Leerdam in September 2020.
According to Brand, the paintings, worth a combined 17 million euros, had ended up with a criminal organization that wanted to use them as leverage for lower prison sentences. Brand negotiated with the organization but couldn’t get the Van Gogh painting back.
Over the weekend, a man returned the Van Gogh painting to Brand. He met him in the dead of night on the Amstelveld in Amsterdam to get the work back. The art detective wouldn’t tell the newspaper who the man was. “I have to protect his identity. It was done in good consultation with the police,” Brand said. “I have always had confidence that the work would return. The last few weeks have been nerve-wracking. I didn’t sleep a wink.”
On Monday, Brand returned the work to the Groninger Museum. Director Andreas Bluhm is delighted. “In recent years, I thought: will I live to see it again? Fortunately, I was only informed shortly before the return. That was better for my nerves. I immediately saw that the work was real. It is slightly damaged but repairable.”