A painting by Dutch master Vincent van Gogh was stolen in an overnight smash-and-grab raid on a museum that was closed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus
The Singer Laren museum, east of Amsterdam, said the Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring, 1884, was taken in the early hours of Monday.
By Monday afternoon, all that could be seen from the outside of the museum was a large white panel covering a door in the building’s glass facade.
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Museum director Evert van Os said he was “angry, shocked, sad” at the theft.
Jan Rudolph de Lorm, director of the Singer Laren Museum, said in a video statement posted on YouTube: “I am shocked and absolutely livid that this has happened.
“This splendid and moving artwork by one of our great artists has been stolen, taken from the community,” he said.
The institution houses the collection of American couple William and Anna Singer.
The stolen painting depicts a woman in a garden with sparse red-flowered bushes and the church building in the background.
“It is terrible for us all because art exists to be seen and shared by us, the community, to enjoy to draw inspiration from and to draw comfort from, especially in these difficult times,” de Lorm added.
Police said in a statement that the thief or thieves smashed a glass door to get into the museum. That set off an alarm which sent officers rushing to the museum, but by the time they got there the painting – and whoever stole it – were gone.
A team including forensics and art theft experts was studying video footage and questioning neighbours.
Dutch museums have been closed because of the coronavirus outbreak since March 12.
Before the closure, the museum was hosting an exhibition titled Mirror of the Soul with works by artists ranging from Jan Toorop to Piet Mondrian, in cooperation with Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum.
The museum’s collection has a focus on modernism such as neo-impressionism, pointillism, expressionism and cubism.
It is not the first high-profile theft from the museum. In 2007, thieves stole seven works from its sculpture garden, including a bronze cast of The Thinker by Auguste Rodin.
The famous sculpture was recovered a few days later, missing a leg.