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Culture

Search goes on for stolen van Gogh as two arrested in Cairo

Two Italian men have been arrested attempting to leave Cairo airport on suspicion of stealing a famous painting by Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh. Police said, however, the painting was still missing.

A self-portrait by Vincent Van Gogh

Van Gogh's paintings have had a far-reaching influence on 20th-century art

Egyptian police have arrested two Italians at Cairo airport suspected of stealing a famous van Gogh painting taken from a museum earlier on Saturday, August 21.

The painting, "Poppy Flowers," worth an estimated 39 million euros ($50 million) was stolen from the Mahmoud Khalil museum in the Egyptian capital after it was cut from its frame.

Egyptian Culture Minister Farouk Hosni confirmed that the painting was still missing, retracting an earlier statement that it had been found.

"Despite receiving confirmation that the painting was recovered, the information was inaccurate and procedures continue to determine how the painting was stolen and how to recover it," Hosni said.

A system glitch

Reports say the museum's surveillance system has been out of order for some time.

"The cameras had not been working for a long time, and neither had the alarm system," a museum security official told news agency AFP, adding that no image of the painting was therefore available.

"We don't exactly know how long they had been out of order, but it was a long time," he said. "The museum officials said they were looking for spare parts [for the security system] but hadn't managed to find them," by the time the theft took place.

This was the second time the painting had been stolen from the museum. Thieves made off with it in 1978, but it was returned a decade later. One year later, a duplicate was sold for $43 million in London, sparking a debate in Egypt about whether the returned painting was, in fact, a fake.

The Mahmoud Khalil museum houses a collection of 208 items, among them works by Monet, Toulouse-Lautrec, Gauguin and Rodin.

Author: Darren Mara (dpa/AFP)
Editor: Toma Tasovac

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