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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Stolen Vincent van Gogh painting recovered after 3 years, handed to detective in Ikea bag

In this photo from March 30, 2020, Singer Laren Museum Evert van Os speaks to the press outside the museum in Laren, about 30 kilometres southeast of Amsterdam, closed to the public because of the COVID-19 pandemic, after the 1884 painting by Vincent van Gogh "Parsonage Garden at Neunen in Spring" was stolen.  (Tribune News Service)
By Muri Assunção New York Daily News

A painting by Vincent van Gogh that was stolen over three years ago has finally been recovered – with a little damage but apparently “still in good condition,” officials at the Netherlands’ Groninger Museum said Tuesday.

The early oil painting, “The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring,” is one of the museum’s “absolute highlights.” It was stolen on March 30, 2020 – the Dutch painter’s birthday – while on loan to an exhibition at the Singer Laren museum just outside Amsterdam.

The painting’s return was negotiated by famed art detective Arthur Brand, who worked in close coordination with Dutch police.

“So here it is,” Brand said Tuesday in a video shared on social media, while holding the 10-by-22-inch picture with his bare hands.

“We have searched for it for more than three and a half years, but finally it’s here,” he said. “I’m going to hand it over in a couple of minutes to the museum director and, afterward, I’m going to have a drink with all the police officers who were involved in recovering this beautiful piece.”

According to Brand, the lengthy investigation concluded with a man handing him the painting – oil on paper on panel, painted in 1884 – in a pillow inside an Ikea bag.

“I did this in complete coordination with Dutch police and we knew this guy wasn’t involved in the theft,” Brand said, according to the BBC.

The painting was seized by thieves who broke through the glass door of the Singer Laren, which had been temporarily shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A French man was arrested in April 2021 and later convicted of stealing the van Gogh, as well as a Frans Hals painting from a different museum, but both pieces of art remained untraced.

“Three and a half years after the theft, the (van Gogh) has finally been returned,” Groninger Museum’s director, Andreas Blühm, said in a statement, in which he thanked Brand for playing “a key role in this case.”

The painting, which is being held temporarily at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, “has suffered” a bit but overall appears to be “in good condition.”

“We do not yet know exactly when (the painting) will be on display in Groningen again,” the museum said. “It could take weeks or months.”