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Stolen van Gogh painting recovered 3 years later in Ikea bag

A Dutch art detective received a missing Vincent van Gogh painting in a blue Ikea bag, more than three years after it went missing.
Arthur Brand holds up a painting.
Posted at 7:39 PM, Sep 13, 2023

More than three years after someone stole it from a Dutch museum, a missing Vincent van Gogh painting worth millions turned up this week in a bag worth cents.

An unnamed tipster delivered the painting titled "The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring" in a blue Ikea bag Monday to Dutch art crime detective Arthur Brand, who had been searching for the work alongside police since March 2020.

That month on van Gogh's birthday, March 30, a man used a sledgehammer to break into the Singer Laren Museum, where the 1884 painting was temporarily housed, and left with it under his arm, according to The New York Times

The piece had been on loan to the museum southeast of Amsterdam as part of a temporary exhibition, but the museum had to close shortly after the display began in response to the start of the pandemic.

Just months after the heist, photos of the painting began circulating online, some of which Brand received as tips. Brand told the Times the painting had been traded around the criminal circuit as a down payment, but it eventually lost its value as such because thieves had been convicted, thereby meaning anyone else showing it off would most likely get million-dollar fines.

The detective had previously found a stolen Picasso and has developed shows and books about stolen artwork, so tipsters often know where to find him if they have information on stolen art, he told the Times.

He didn't reveal the identity of who delivered the painting but said the person offered it in return for anonymity and "no trouble," the publication reported.

Brand revealed the recovery on Instagram, thanking authorities who helped in the search and saying he would soon hand it over to a museum director.

The painting is being kept temporarily at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, but the Groninger Museum, which lent the painting to Singer Laren, thanked Brand for his "key role in this case."

"The Groninger Museum is extremely happy and relieved that the work is back," its director, Andreas Blühm, said in a statement. "We are very grateful to everyone who contributed to this good outcome."

Blühm said the painting "has suffered, but is — at first glance — still in good condition." In the coming months, it will be scientifically examined for changes.

An insurance company is the current formal owner of the piece after paying the Groninger for its loss, but the museum said it will exercise its right to first purchase of the work to hopefully bring it back on display in weeks, if not months.