A painting by Vincent van Gogh stolen and then given to a Dutch art detective in an IKEA bag was exhibited Wednesday for the first time since its restitution, which made headlines in the Dutch press.
The garden of the Nuenen rectory in the spring of 1884, estimated to be worth between three and six million euros, was presented to the media at a museum in Rotterdam, with the damage to the painting due to the theft still visible. A white scratch stands out at the bottom of the canvas, a “serious damage” according to Marjan de Visser, restorer of the painting. “It goes through all the layers, the varnish, the paint layers, then the base coat, which is white,” Ms. De Visser told AFP.
“Underneath is the original canvas, which is also a little damaged,” she continued, adding that the damage was probably due to the painting being hit by something hard. The conservator conducts an in-depth investigation into the painting, examining the materials used, previous restorations and how it was painted. De Visser has already cleaned the dirt from the painting and begun to remove some of the varnish, preparatory steps for the actual restoration of the work.
Wednesday's exhibition was for the media only, but the public will be able to view the painting from March 29 at the museum in Groningen, in the north of the Netherlands. The work was stolen during a robbery in the middle of the night in March 2020, during confinement due to the coronavirus pandemic, from the Singer Laren museum near Amsterdam, on loan from the Groningen museum. Video footage from Dutch police released shortly after the theft showed a burglar breaking down a glass door of the museum before fleeing with the painting hidden under his right arm.
The work was missing for three and a half years before sensationally resurfacing, given to Arthur Brand, an art detective nicknamed "the Indiana Jones of the art world" for tracking down several major works missing. A man, whose identity has not been revealed, returned the painting to Arthur Brand in a blue IKEA bag, in a pillowcase and covered in bubble wrap.