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Police arrest suspect in Van Gogh, Hals art heist

April 6, 2021

A man has been accused of stealing two paintings, worth millions, from museums shut down during the pandemic. Neither of the famous artworks has been recovered.

Van Gogh's "Parsonage Garden at Neunen in Spring" from 1884
Van Gogh was living with his parents when he painted the gardens of the parsonage in Neunen, where his father was pastor Image: picture-alliance/akg-images

Dutch police arrested a 58-year-old man on Tuesday on suspicion of stealing paintings by Vincent Van Gogh and Frans Hals from museums in the Netherlands last year.

Police said the man was held at his home in the central town of Baarn on suspicion of stealing Van Gogh's 1884 painting "Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring" from the Singer Laren Museum near Amsterdam — where it was on loan from the Groninger Museum — in March 2020; and "Two Laughing Boys with a Mug of Beer," painted by Hals in 1626, from the Museum Hofje Van Aerden in Leerdam in August of last year.

Two Laughing Boys With a Mug of Beer by Frans Hals
'Two Laughing Boys with a Mug of Beer,' by Frans Hals, has been stolen three times now Image: Gemeinfrei/The Yorck Project

"This morning my colleagues arrested a 58-year-old man in Baarn and we suspect him of stealing two paintings by Frans Hals and Van Gogh," police spokeswoman Maren Wonder said in a video statement released on Twitter. 

The paintings have not yet been found, according to Wonder, who urged anyone with information on the matter to inform authorities.

The Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf reported Singer Laren Museum staff were pleased that police had captured the suspect.

"It is fantastic news and great that the police have tracked down this man. But the work is not done yet. I hope the arrest can lead police to the painting so that people can enjoy it again at the Groninger Museum," De Telegraaf quoted a Singer Laren Museum spokesperson as saying.

Masterpieces worth millions

Van Gogh's "Parsonage Garden at Nuenen" is estimated to be worth upwards of $6 million (€5 million), while "Two Laughing Boys with a Mug of Beer," has been valued at €15 million ($17.76 million).

The Hals painting has been stolen from the Museum Hofje Van Aerden three times now going missing in 1988, 2011 and 2020.

mvb/msh (AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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