1108 GMT April 21, 2021
The unnamed man was arrested at his home in the central town of Baarn over the thefts of Van Gogh’s ‘The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring’ and Hals’s ‘Two Laughing Boys’.
Police said that despite a search of the man’s home, they had not recovered either of the paintings. The Van Gogh is valued at up to £5m while the Hals masterpiece would be expected to fetch £13.4m at auction, the Guardian wrote.
The Van Gogh masterpiece was stolen from the Singer Laren Museum near Amsterdam in the early hours of March 30, 2020 during a period in which it had been closed due to coronavirus restrictions.
The theft happened on what would have been the 167th anniversary of the 19th-century painter’s birth, prompting the museum’s director, Jan Rudolph de Lorm.
The thief had arrived on motorbike before using a sledgehammer to smash through the reinforced glass front door of the museum and fleeing with the 25cm by 57cm oil-on-paper painting tucked under his right arm.
Two months later, the Dutch art detective Arthur Brand received two “proof of life” photos of the Van Gogh alongside a dated front page of the New York Times newspaper.
Brand said at the time that the photographs had been “circulating in mafia circles” and had been handed to him by a source he declined to identify. The photographs obtained by Brand had revealed a new scratch on the bottom of the painting, thought to have been picked up during the raid.
‘Parsonage Garden’ was painted relatively early in Van Gogh’s career, before the prolific artist embarked on his trademark post-impressionist works such as ‘Sunflowers’ and vivid self-portraits.
‘Two Laughing Boys’ by the 17th-century Dutch master Hals was taken in a burglary in August from the Hofje van Mevrouw van Aerden Museum in Leerdam. Thieves had forced the back door building, setting off an alarm. But by the time officers arrived at 3:30 a.m., there was no sign of the perpetrators.
The painting was previously stolen from the museum in 2011 and 1988. It was recovered after six months and three years, respectively. Hals, who died in 1666, has been described as one of the great portraitists of the Golden Age. One of his most famous paintings is ‘The Laughing Cavalier’.
“Both paintings have not yet resurfaced with this arrest. The search continues unabated,” the police said. “This arrest is an important step in the investigation.”
Brand – known as the Indiana Jones of the art world for finding several lost paintings – hailed the news of the arrest. “Another huge success for Dutch police,” he tweeted. “The plot thickens...”