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Detail from Vincent van Gogh’s The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring, 1884.
Detail from Vincent van Gogh’s The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring, 1884.

Dutch Art Thief Gets Eight Years For Stealing Van Gogh, Hals Paintings

A Dutch art thief has been found guilty and sentenced in connection with the night thefts last year of two paintings, by Vincent van Gogh and Frans Hals, respectively. Fifty-nine-year-old Norm M. of Baarn, Netherlands, was sentenced to the maximum eight years in prison for stealing the works, collectively valued at $25 million, from two different Dutch museums.

A panel of three judges in a Central Netherlands court noted that the paintings were still missing and that “the suspect was not concerned about this and apparently only had an eye for his own material interests.”

An April search of the now-convicted man’s home failed to turn up van Gogh’s 1884 Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring, an early oil-on-paper work showing a figure surrounded by trees and valued at $6.9 million, or of Hals’s 1626 Two Laughing Boys, an $18.5 million painting depicting two boys enjoying themselves over beer. The Baarn resident snatched the van Gogh from Amsterdam’s Singer Laren Museum, in March 2020, smashing through the institution’s front door with a sledgehammer and escaping on the back of a motorbike. The painting’s frame was found lying in the parking lot. Five months later, he jimmied open the door of the Hofje van Mevrouw van Aerden Museum in Leerdam and made off with the Hals work, which had already been swiped from that institution twice. An accomplice, who drove the motorbike used in both thefts, remains at large.

The judges cited the pilferer’s past as playing a part in their decision to throw the book at him, pointing to his conviction in a 2012 theft in which he dynamited the door of a museum in Gouda before swiping a seventeenth-century monstrance from inside. Casting the serial art thief as an “incorrigible and calculating criminal,” the judges wrote in their ruling, “These paintings are part of the national cultural heritage. They are part of our past and are of great importance to present and future generations so that they can learn about that past. With [their] removal, the defendant not only disadvantaged the relevant museums for enormous amounts, but also society.”

The New York Times reports that an appeal of the ruling is in the works.