A stolen Vincent van Gogh painting was recently returned in a rather abstract way.
The Dutch painter’s The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring was stolen back in March 2020 from a museum just outside Amsterdam that was closed due to the pandemic. On Monday, though, it was returned by an anonymous man inside a big blue Ikea bag, The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday. The painting had been wrapped in plastic and stuffed into a pillowcase, with the pillow still in there as well.
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“It’s always a dream to recover something like this,” Arthur Brand, the art detective who received the stolen painting, told the WSJ. “Many people already had considered it to be lost forever.”
Brand had been working with police to find the stolen van Gogh, which was taken from the Dutch museum Singer Laren at the beginning of the Covid pandemic. A thief broke through a glass door at 3:15 in the morning and left with the painting on a motorcycle, Jan Rudolph de Lorm, the Singer Laren museum director, told The Wall Street Journal. While a man was arrested in connection with the theft in 2021, the painting hadn’t been found until now.
Apparently, someone reached out to Brand a couple of weeks ago saying that he could return the stolen van Gogh. Brand gave him his address in Amsterdam and, true to his word, the mystery man delivered the painting to Brand. (In the past, the art detective has helped police recover stolen works, including two bronze sculptures known as Hitler’s horses in 2015.)
The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring was painted by van Gogh in 1884, five years before The Starry Night was completed. It depicts a garden at a clergy home where his father was a pastor, and utilizes oil paints on wooden panels. Just 11 inches tall and 22 inches long, Brand estimated that the painting is worth $3.2 million to $6.4 million.
The Groninger Museum, which owns the painting and had lent it to Singer Laren, told the WSJ that it was “extremely happy and relieved that the work is back.” The artwork had some small scratches on it after being returned, and it’s currently at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam for restoration. That process could take a while, with weeks or months until the van Gogh is displayed once again.
The painting “has suffered, but is—at first glance—still in good condition,” the Groninger said.
That should be welcome news in the art world.