The thieves knew exactly what they were after, and the Covid-19 lockdown provided the perfect opportunity for the crime.
A rare Vincent van Gogh painting — Spring Garden — was stolen this week in an early morning raid at the Singer Laren museum near Amsterdam, which is closed because of the coronavirus pandemic, The Daily Mail reported.
The burglars forced their way through the glass front door shortly after 3 am and left with the single painting by the Dutch master, police said.
The museum was shut down on March 12 along with the Van Gogh Museum and Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the report said.
Museum director Jan Rudolph de Lorm told Dutch media he was “shocked and incredibly p—ed off” by the theft, the report said.
‘This is extremely difficult, especially in these times,” he said.
‘This splendid and moving artwork by one of our great artists has been stolen, taken from the community.”
The van Gogh painting had been on loan from the Groninger Museum in the city of Groningen, according to public broadcaster NOS, the report said.
The director of the Groninger Museum said the burglary was “the theft of a work that belongs to all of us.”
The Singer Laren museum said security had been “entirely according to protocol.”
The 1884 painting shows a rectory garden in the town of Nuenen, where van Gogh was living at the time.
It depicts a woman in the garden with sparse red-flowered bushes and the church building in the background.
According to the Groninger Museum, van Gogh was living with his parents at the rectory after his father was appointed pastor of the small parish.
The value of the artwork was not immediately clear. However, another work from the Nuenen period recently sold for around US$13.5 million at a Dutch auction, the report said.
Some van Gogh paintings have sold for far more, including his Vase with Fifteen Sunflowers which changed hands for nearly £25 million at 1987 prices — equivalent to roughly £60 million today, the report said.
Van Gogh was born 167 years ago today, in 1853. He died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in 1890, although recently there has been some controversy over the manner of his death.
Museum staff held a press conference which was live-streamed via YouTube because of the virus outbreak, the report said.
The museum’s 3,000 works also include works by Dutch abstract master Piet Mondrian and Dutch-Indonesian painter Jan Toorop, as well as a casting of “The Thinker” by Auguste Rodin, the report said.
Several museums announced their closure after the Dutch government banned gatherings of more than 100 people on March 12.
The Anne Frank House, another major tourist attraction in Amsterdam, has also been closed down.
The city’s red-light district has also been shut, but the famous “coffee shops” that sell cannabis were allowed to remain open for takeout.
The number of virus cases in the Netherlands rose to 11,750, after 884 new cases brought the total up from 10,866.
The death toll increased by 93, bringing the tally from 771 to 864.