The Singer Museum in Laren, near Amsterdam, is, like so many other museums and public places around the world, currently closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, having locked its doors until further notice on March 12.
At about 3:15 a.m. local time Monday morning (9:15 p.m. Sunday night EDT), police were summoned to the museum after an alarm had been triggered. There, they found that a thief had apparently broken a glass door to gain entry to the building. Inside, they found the Vincent Van Gogh painting Parsonage Garden — or more accurately, The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring — had been removed. The thief was long gone.
The 1884 painting had been on loan from the Groninger Museum in the city of Groningen, CNN reports.
“I am shocked and unbelievably pissed off,” said Singer museum director Jan Rudolph de Lorm, noting that the theft affects not only the Singer and Groningen museums but also the general public.
“Above all it is horrible for all of us, because art is there to be seen and shared by all of us, for society as a whole, to bring enjoyment, to bring inspiration, and also to bring comfort. Especially in this difficult time.”
According to Artnet News, Van Gogh painted the work while he was living in Neunen, where his father worked as a pastor, between 1883 and 1885. It depicts the ruins of the village church, which the painter could see from his father’s house.
Ironically, the painting was also stolen on Van Gogh’s birth anniversary, as the legendary painter was born on March 30, 1853.
Back in The Netherlands, police are assessing the damage, trying to determine if anything else was taken from the museum’s 3,000-piece collection.
As of this writing, police have no suspects. They’re asking residents who live near the museum to provide any security-camera footage they might have that could possibly show a suspect. Laren is one of the wealthier towns in the country, so it’s not unlikely that nearby residents would have security cameras.
Stealing art from a museum may seem like a fool’s errand — after all, selling a stolen piece of art would be next to impossible. But according to Smithsonian, such thieves rarely profit from their capers by selling the items on the black market. Rather, they try to use such pieces — usually with little success — as collateral in underworld deals, or they try to ransom them back to the museums.