Stolen Van Gogh painting goes back on show

A stolen Van Gogh painting has gone on show again in the Netherlands after it was returned in an IKEA bag last year.

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The 1884 painting ‘The Parsonage Garden at Neuen in Spring’ by Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh, has been put on display for the first time since its theft in 2020.

The painting is at the Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam, before it returns to its home at the Groninger Museum in Groningen from March 29 as part of the ‘150 Years of the Groninger Museum – Behind the Scenes’ exhibition.

‘The Parsonage Garden at Neuen in Spring’ was stolen from the Singer Laren Museum where it was on loan from Groningen on 30 March 2020. Valued between €3-6 million, it is one of the first paintings by the artist. The disappearance of the masterpiece prompted a wide-scale search for the culprits.

While Dutch police were able to capture both the thief (named as Nils K) and the man who ordered the painting (named as Peter Roy K), the painting’s whereabouts remained unknown.

It wasn’t until Arthur Brand, a Dutch art crime investigator known as the ‘Indiana Jones of the art world’, was contacted by someone with access to the painting, that there was hope for its return.

Brand arranged to ensure the person’s identity remained anonymous, and the unidentified man dropped the painting off at his Amsterdam house on 11 September 2023. The painting was famously dropped off in a blue IKEA bag, before the contact sped off into the night.

After verifying the authenticity of the painting with the help of Andreas Blühm, the director of the Groninger Museum, who was waiting around the corner, the return of ‘The Parsonage Garden at Neuen in Spring’ made international headlines.

The painting has since been assessed by conservator Marjan de Visser at the Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen. De Visser found that it had been damaged in the theft and is in the process of restoration.

As part of the restoration, de Visser also discovered new information about its original mounting and subject matter. Van Gogh originally planned the painting to be a winter scene but changed it to spring later on. 

De Visser also found that the painting had originally been painted on linen and soon affixed to a wooden frame, unlike the originally thought method of paper on a panel.