Thieves have taken advantage of the distraction provided by the public health situation to steal a prize Vincent van Gogh painting from a museum in the Netherlands. Under cover of darkness, the bandits targeted the Singer Laren museum in Laren, east of Amsterdam, and made off with the Dutch master’s The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring (1884) while the institution was closed to the public.
“I am extremely pissed off that this happened,” the museum’s director Jan Rudolph de Lorm said at a press conference on Monday. “This is a huge blow. This is extremely difficult, especially in these times.”
The break-in at the museum happened in the early hours of Monday morning, at around 3:15 a.m. The thieves smashed a large glass door at the front of the museum to access the building. Police reached the scene after the museum’s alarm was triggered, but the perpetrators had vanished by the time they arrived, according to a statement from the local authorities.
To add insult to injury, the painting does not even belong to the museum—it was on loan from the Groninger Museum in Groningen, the Netherlands, according to the police. The 1884 work was the only painting by Van Gogh in the Groninger Museum’s collection. It was painted when Van Gogh was living in Neunen, where his father was a pastor, between 1883 and 1885, and depicts the ruins of the village church, which the artist could see from his father’s house. (The date of the theft also happens to be the artist’s birthday: he was born on March 30, 1853.)
“The Groninger Museum is shocked by the news,” the museum said in a statement. A spokesperson declined to comment further, citing the police investigation.
Police have launched a criminal investigation and are reviewing security footage and questioning local residents. They have also launched a broader appeal for information and are requesting any security footage captured by other cameras in the neighborhood. Laren is one of the most affluent towns in the Netherlands.
It is unclear whether anything else was stolen from the Singer Laren’s 3,000-piece collection. The museum was established in 1954 by Anna Singer, the widow of the American painter William Singer, to showcase their collection. It includes works by Dutch artists Jan Toorop, Chris Beekman, and Herman Kruyder, among others. Most Dutch museums shuttered on March 14 in an effort to preserve public health; the Singer Laren museum is closed until June 1.
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