Two van Gogh paintings have been recovered by Italian police. Both works were stolen from the Amsterdam van Gogh Museum 14 years ago. In 2003, two men convicted of the crime denied involvement and claimed they had been framed.
In 2002, both paintings were stolen by using a ladder, rope and breaking a glass roof panel. This simple method caused a small media storm: it was that easy to rob the van Gogh museum! People living close to the museum also failed to raise the alarm.
The two recovered paintings are important early van Goghs. One is a painting of Scheveningen beach. Vincent van Gogh painted it while living in The Hague in 1882. According to the director of the van Gogh Museum, it is one of only two seascapes van Gogh painted while living in the Netherlands. Unfortunately, the recovered painting is damaged.
The second painting dates from an even earlier period. It shows people leaving a local church. Van Gogh apparently painted it for his mother, while spending time at his parental home in Nuenen in 1884 or 1885. Vincent van Gogh’s father was the local vicar.
After his father’s death, van Gogh slightly changed this painting. He added women wearing traditional mourning clothes. As with the seascape, this painting no longer has a frame.
After the paintings were recovered from the Naples mafia by police, an Italian curator verified the authenticity of both works. It is not yet known when these paintings will be returned to the van Gogh museum in Amsterdam. As at least one of them will need restoration, it may be a while before museum visitors will be able to admire both recovered works again.