On Tuesday, the unidentified 58-year-old was apprehended at his home in the central town of Baarn in the Netherlands. But a search of the premises yielded no signs of the missing paintings, much to the disappointment of investigators and museum staff.
Van Gogh’s ‘Spring Garden’, also known as ‘Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring’ was taken from the Singer Laren Museum in March 2020. Valued at £5 million, the oil painting was created whilst the artist was still living with his parents in Nuenen and is an example of his early style. The robbery occurred on the day of Van Gogh’s birth, 167 years later. Thieves arrived on motorbikes, smashing through two glass doors with a sledgehammer before fleeing with the artwork.
“This must come back as soon as possible, so that we can enjoy and be comforted by this beautiful art again,” appealed the museum’s director, Jan Rudolph de Lorm, at the time. “Art deserves to be seen and shared by us, the community.”
A few months later in August 2020, the burglars struck again at Museum Hofje van Mevrouw van Aerden in Leerdam. Frans Hals’s ‘Two Laughing Boys with a Mug of Beer’, reputedly worth €15 million (£13 million) was taken after the museum’s back doors were forced open in the early hours of the morning. The infamous painting has been stolen twice before, in 1988 and in 2011.
Famed Dutch art crime investigator Arthur Brand later received a “proof of life” photo of the missing Van Gogh. The hostage-like images had apparently been circulating in mafia circles to drum up attention from buyers. Following this week’s arrest, Brand tweeted: “Another huge success for Dutch police… the plot thickens…”
A spokesperson for the Singer Laren Museum added “I sincerely hope that this arrest will lead the police to the painting in the short term… It has now been a year since the break-in took place and every day we hope for this good news.