Thieves use coronavirus shutdown to steal Van Gogh painting

While the rest of the world is grappling with Covid-19 shutdowns, thieves are taking advantage of the global pandemic to an opportunity to steal artwork. Yesterday, a Vincent Van Gogh painting – The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring 1884 – was brazenly stolen in a raid on a Dutch museum closed due to the pandemic.

Thieves broke into the Singer Laren museum (a small museum east of Amsterdam) in the middle of the night (around 3:15 am), smashed a glass door at the entrance and made off with the painting before the police arrived.

The painting was reportedly on loan to the Singer Laren museum from the Groninger Museum in the Netherlands for a temporary exhibition. It was said to be the only van Gogh in Groninger’s collection.

Jan Rudolph de Lorm, the director of the Singer Laren museum, was “shocked and incredibly pissed off” about the theft. “Art is there to be enjoyed and to comfort people, especially during this difficult time,” he said.

Opportunity for Crime

As the coronavirus pandemic rages on, the global shutdown of museums and galleries, lack of crowds and potentially diminished security forces due to staffing issues may seem like an open invitation to opportunistic thieves. Van Gogh’s painting was the only one to disappear recently.

Just a few weeks ago, thieves broke into Christ Church Picture Gallery at the University of Oxford and made away three high-value paintings, dating back to the 16th and 17th century, worth about $12 million.

The stolen paintings were identified as Salvator Rosa’s A Rocky Coast, With Soldiers Studying A Plan, from the late 1640s, Anthony Van Dyck’s A Soldier On Horseback, circa 1616, and Annibale Carracci’s A Boy Drinking, circa 1580.

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