June 18 (UPI) — A Dutch art detective said Thursday he’s received “proof of life” of an early Vincent van Gogh painting stolen from a museum in March.
Arthur Brand told Artnet News that someone sent him two photographs of the presumed painting beside a copy of The New York Times dated May 30 and the book Master Thief: The Bizarre Experiences of Van Gogh Robber Okkie Durham.
“This is good news,” Brand said. “Sometimes criminals get nervous when they can’t immediately sell a work or they think police are on their trail and they destroy it.”
He said he was able to use his connections as an art detective to obtain the photographs. He said he believes the thief is attempting to sell the painting, not use it for ransom.
The second photograph shows the back of the painting, which Brand said indicates its authenticity since only previous owners of the artwork would know what that looks like.
Brand said the book’s inclusion in the photographs could indicate the thief was trying to copy Octave Durham. Durham was imprisoned for stealing two paintings from the Van Gogh Museum in 2002.
A Dutch police spokesman told The Guardian that authorities have included the photos in their investigation of who stole the painting earlier this year.
The thief took the painting, De Lentetuin, which, in English is known as Spring Garden, the vicarage garden in Nuenen in the spring, around 3:15 a.m. March 30 from the Singer Laren museum in the North Holland province, Netherlands. The artwork was on loan to the museum from the Groninger Museum in northern Netherlands.
Surveillance footage showed the thief arrive at the Singer Laren museum on a motorcycle and use a sledge hammer to break multiple glass doors to access the exhibit space. The suspect appeared to be wearing a face mask similar to a balaclava, hiding their features.
The 1884 painting, which is about 15 inches by 28 inches, depicts the garden of the Dutch Reformist Church in Nuenen, which is where van Gogh’s father was a vicar.
Brand said the photograph of the painting indicates it’s picked up a new scratch since its theft.