'Indiana Jones of the art world' recovers stolen £5million Van Gogh painting: Crook dumps it in an IKEA bag after detective tracks him down

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  • Reading time:7 min(s) read

  • Arthur Brand, dubbed the Indiana Jones of the art world’ recovered £5m painting
  • The Van Gogh painting was stolen in 2020 from a museum near Amsterdam 

A Dutch art detective dubbed the ‘Indiana Jones of the art world’ today revealed he recovered a £5.1million Vincent Van Gogh painting that was stolen from a museum in a daring midnight heist more than three years ago. 

Arthur Brand acquired the painting, the 1884 ‘Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring’, which is worth up to six million euros, on Monday after he tracked down a crook who was in possession of the precious piece.

The crook, who has not been named, dumped the painting in a blue IKEA bag, covered with bubble-wrap and stuffed in a pillow cover, in an undisclosed location – ending a case that has been a source of frustration for Brand for three and a half years.

Brand, who has earned his nickname ‘Indiana Jones of the Art World’ after he traced a series of high-profile lost artworks, said that confirming the painting was the stolen Van Gogh piece was ‘one of the greatest moments of my life’.

A grinning Brand held up the stolen piece in a video, in which he says: ‘This is Spring Garden by Vincent Van Gogh which was stolen three years ago on Van Gogh’s birthday from a museum in the Netherlands.

‘We have searched for it for more than three and a half years but finally it’s here, it’s back.’

A Dutch art detective dubbed the ' Indiana Jones of the art world' has today revealed he recovered a £5million Vincent Van Gogh painting that was stolen from a museum in a daring midnight heist more than three years ago

A Dutch art detective dubbed the ‘ Indiana Jones of the art world’ has today revealed he recovered a £5million Vincent Van Gogh painting that was stolen from a museum in a daring midnight heist more than three years ago

A grinning Brand held up the stolen piece in a video in which he says: 'This is Spring Garden by Vincent Van Gogh which was stolen three years ago on Van Gogh's birthday from a museum in the Netherlands'

A grinning Brand held up the stolen piece in a video in which he says: ‘This is Spring Garden by Vincent Van Gogh which was stolen three years ago on Van Gogh’s birthday from a museum in the Netherlands’

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‘We have searched for it for more than three and a half years but finally it’s here, it’s back,’ Brand said in the video while holding up the Van Gogh painting 

Brand said he would hand the painting back to the director of the Singer Laren Museum near Amsterdam to hand the artwork back before heading off to have a well-deserved drink with the police officers involved in the case.

The piece was stolen from the museum on March 30, 2023 – Van Gogh’s birthday – during the coronavirus lockdown in a heist that made headlines around the world.

‘Arthur Brand, in cooperation with the Dutch police, has solved this matter,’ Richard Bronswijk of the Dutch police arts crime unit said. ‘This is definitely the real one, there’s no doubt about it.’

Brands said that frequent calls by him and the Dutch police to hand back the stolen artwork finally paid off when a man, whose identity was not revealed for his own safety, handed Brand the painting in a blue IKEA bag.

A video clip supplied by Brand showed him unpacking the painting in his lounge and gasping in astonishment when he realised what it was. ‘I couldn’t believe it,’ he said.

The whereabouts of Van Gogh’s painting had remained a mystery until two weeks ago when a mysterious man contacted Brand saying he wanted to return it.

After some negotiation, Brand persuaded the man – who had ‘nothing to do with the theft’, according to the art detective – to hand back the artwork.

‘The man told me, “I want to return the Van Gogh. It has caused a massive headache” because it could not be used as a bargaining chip, Brand said.

‘In an operation done in close coordination with the Dutch police, we got the painting back,’ he said.

Dutch police had released video images shortly after the 2020 burglary showing a thief smashing through a glass door with a sledgehammer in the middle of the night, before running out with the painting tucked under his right arm.

The security footage shows the thief entering the museum through the gift shop after smashing his way through the glass doors.

He then breaks another door with his sledgehammer, advancing further into the gallery and leaving more shattered glass behind him.

This security footage from the Singer Laren museum near Amsterdam shows the moment a burglar broke in through the gift shop on a mission to steal a Van Gogh painting

This security footage from the Singer Laren museum near Amsterdam shows the moment a burglar broke in through the gift shop on a mission to steal a Van Gogh painting

The thief is seen on this footage broadcast by Dutch TV last night which police say has already led to dozens of new tips from the public

The thief is seen on this footage broadcast by Dutch TV last night which police say has already led to dozens of new tips from the public

The crook was seen escaping the museum the way he had entered it, carrying his sledgehammer under one arm and the painting under the other

The crook was seen escaping the museum the way he had entered it, carrying his sledgehammer under one arm and the painting under the other 

The museum’s managing director Evert van Os defended the Singer Laren’s security at the time, which he said had been approved by an insurance firm.

‘The burglar broke through a number of doors and several layers of security that had been approved by security experts,’ van Os said.

‘The footage released does not therefore allow any conclusions to be drawn as to the quality of security at Singer Laren.’

Meanwhile, in April 2021, police arrested a man named in Dutch media as Nils M. for the theft. He was later convicted and sentenced to eight years behind bars.

M. was also convicted for stealing another masterpiece by Frans Hals called ‘Two Laughing Boys’ in a separate heist.

‘After a few months I heard from a source in the criminal world who had bought the Van Gogh from Nils M,’ said Brand, who has gained fame for his remarkable recoveries of stolen art, including the ‘Hitler’s Horses’ bronze statues, a Picasso painting and a ring that once belonged to Oscar Wilde.

This man, identified by Dutch media as Peter Roy K., is currently behind bars for a separate case involving the large-scale import and export of cocaine, Brand said.

The Parsonage Garden At Neunen In Spring 1884, by Dutch master Vincent van Gogh, was stolen from a Dutch museum last year while it was closed because of coronavirus pandemic

The Parsonage Garden At Neunen In Spring 1884, by Dutch master Vincent van Gogh, was stolen from a Dutch museum which is closed because of the coronavirus pandemic

The Singer Laren museum near Amsterdam (pictured on the day of the theft) said the Vincent van Gogh painting had been stolen in an overnight raid

The Singer Laren museum near Amsterdam (pictured on the day of the theft) said the Vincent van Gogh painting had been stolen in an overnight raid 

K. wanted to use the painting as collateral to negotiate a reduction in his sentence.

Brand confirmed Peter Roy K.’s identity, stressing he had said before that ‘no deal for a reduced sentence would be made’.

The whereabouts of the Van Gogh however remained a mystery until two weeks ago when Brand was contacted.

The painting, which comes from relatively early on in Van Gogh’s career, before the prolific artist embarked on his trademark post-impressionist paintings such as ‘Sunflowers’ and his vivid self-portraits, has already been handed back to the director of the Groninger Museum, from where it was on loan to the Singer Karen Museum.

Frans Hals’ ‘Two Laughing Boys’ remains missing, but Brand said he hoped that painting would also be returned soon.




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