Stolen works done by Vincent van Gogh and Frans Hals 

Never thought it would be possible for someone to steal a famous piece of artwork but for a fifty-nine-year-old Dutch art thief, who goes by the name of Nils M, that seemed pretty easy. The paintings involved are the van Gogh painting titled The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring (1889) which was stolen from the Singer Laren Museum. A few months later, the famous painting entitled Two Boys Laughing with a Mug of Beer, by Frans Hals was stolen from the Museum Hofje van Mevrouw van Aerden, in Leerdam. This all took place in March of 2020 during the covid lockdown in the Netherlands.

Vincent van Gogh’s Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring painting. Part of the Post-Impressionism movement. Medium is oil on paper on panel.  

So just how in the world were these famous paintings stolen anyway? Well according to the article I read the van Gogh was on loan from the Groninger Museum when it was stolen and security footage showed a man smashing into the museum with a sledgehammer and then take off with the painting under his arm. Pieces of the painting’s frame were found in the parking lot. The only type of question I had after reading that was why? Why didn’t the museum, knowing that they had a famous van Gogh painting, have better security? Why did this older, already pushing sixty-year-old man choose to use a sledgehammer to break into a museum? Out of all of the other things he could have used, he chose a noisy, ear-splitting sledgehammer? And why did he leave pieces of the frame in the parking lot? Like is he wanting to get caught? I know if I were to go to such great lengths to steal a famous painting, the last thing I would want to do is leave behind any evidence that could lead back to me.

Frans Hals painting, Two Laughing Boys with a Mug of Beer, painted in 1626. Medium is oil on canvas.

I was very intrigued when reading about how the Hals painting was snatched. I was also kind of shocked to find out that the painting had been stolen twice before, 1988 and 2011, making this the third time it was stolen. But how?? Who lets a famous painting get stolen for the third time? You would think after the second time it was stolen there would be better security measures in place but I guess not. During the third time it was stolen, the back door to the Hofje van Mevrouw van Aerden museum, where the painting was on display, had been broken and there was an orange tension cord tied to a flagpole in the garden outside the museum. I guess you could say that Nils M did somewhat of a better job in stealing this painting except for the fact that he once again left some type of evidence behind.  

Nonetheless, Nils M was found and arrested. During his hearing, he denied knowing anything about the stolen paintings but he couldn’t explain as to why his DNA was found at both of the museums where the pieces were taken. He literally left evidence behind. Which had his DNA. And he couldn’t explain that? Seems suspicious to me. Anyway, he was found guilty and sentenced to eight years in prison. He is also expected to pay a hefty fine of €8.73 million.

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