The Dutch press was able to admire a painting by Vincent Van Gogh on Wednesday which had disappeared for more than three years. Stolen during the Covid-19 pandemic, it was handed over to an art detective in an Ikea bag.
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The Nuenen presbytery garden in spring, by Vincent Van Gogh, dating from 1884, and whose value is estimated between 3 and 6 million euros, was presented to the media in a museum in Rotterdam on Wednesday February 7. He had been missing for more than three years. Stolen during the Covid-19 pandemic, it was handed over to an art detective in an Ikea bag.
Damage to the painting due to theft is still visible. A white scratch stands out in particular on the bottom of the canvas, a “serious damage”according to Marjan de Visser, restorer of the work. “It goes through all the layers, the varnish, the paint layers, then the base coat, which is white,” the latter declared to AFP. “Underneath is the original canvas, which is also a little damaged,” she continued, adding that the damage was probably due to the painting being hit by something hard.
The conservator conducts an in-depth investigation into the painting, examining the materials used, previous restorations and how it was painted. Marjan de Visser has already cleaned the dirt that covered the painting and started to remove some of the varnish, preparatory steps for the actual restoration of the work.
Three years of disappearance
Wednesday’s exhibition was for the media only, but the public will be able to view the painting from March 29 at the museum in Groningen, in the north of the Netherlands. The work was stolen during a robbery in the middle of the night in March 2020, during confinement due to the coronavirus pandemic. It was then exhibited at the Singer Laren Museum, near Amsterdam.
Video footage from Dutch police released shortly after the theft showed a burglar breaking down a glass door of the museum before fleeing with the painting hidden under his right arm. The work was missing for three and a half years before sensationally resurfacing. It was given to Arthur Brand, an art detective nicknamed “the Indiana Jones of the art world” for having found traces of several missing major works. A man, whose identity has not been revealed, returned the painting to Arthur Brand in a blue Ikea bag, in a pillowcase and covered in bubble wrap.