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Vincent van Gogh, The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring (detail), 1884.

Dutch Police Arrest Suspect in Night Thefts of Van Gogh, Hals Paintings

Police in the Netherlands arrested an unnamed fifty-eight-year-old man in connection with the theft of two paintings, by Vincent van Gogh and Frans Hals, respectively. The works, whose total value is estimated at more than $25 million, were stolen from Dutch museums under cover of night last year.

A search of the man’s home in Baarn turned up no trace of van Gogh’s 1884 Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring, or of Hals’s 1626 Two Laughing Boys, the former valued at $6.9 million and the latter at $18.5 million. Though the search for both works continues, “this arrest is an important step in the investigation,” said police spokesperson Maren Wonder in a statement.

Parsonage Garden, an early van Gogh oil-on-paper work showing a figure surrounded by trees and predating the artist’s characteristic Post-Impressionist style, was taken from Amsterdam’s coronavirus-shuttered Singer Laren Museum on March 30, 2020—the 167th anniversary of the painter’s birthday. Surveillance footage showed the thief arriving in the wee hours of the morning on a motorbike, shattering a reinforced-glass door with a sledgehammer, and zipping off with the painting tucked under one arm. Two months later, Dutch art detective Arthur Brand received two photos of the work next to a dated front page of the New York Times, proving its existence and condition.

Two Laughing Boys, depicting two youths giggling over a stein of beer, was snatched from the Hofje van Mevrouw van Aerden Museum in Leerdam in August. In order to obtain it, the thief, or thieves, pried open a back door; police responding to a ringing alarm there at 3:30 a.m. found no trace of the burglars or of the work, which had been stolen from the museum twice before, in 1988 and 2011.

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