20 Van Goghs Recovered Hour After Museum Theft

From Associated Press

Twenty priceless paintings by Vincent van Gogh that were stolen early Sunday from a museum were recovered less than an hour later, abandoned in a getaway car outside a railway station, police said.

The haul from the Vincent van Gogh National Museum, which included the final version of his masterpiece, “The Potato Eaters,” was worth “hundreds of millions” of dollars, police spokesman Klaas Wilting said.

“Still Life With Sunflowers” and “Still Life With Irises” were among the other paintings. They are both part of separate series the Dutch painter did on flowers before his suicide in 1890, and other paintings in those series have broken art auction records.


Police said they did not know why the robbers left the works after fleeing. Police found the paintings in two garment bags in the getaway car, parked at the Amstel railway station about 1 1/2 miles from the museum. There were no arrests.

“If you look at the way it was done, you would presume it was well-planned, but if you look at the outcome, it looks like pure amateurish,” said a police spokesman, Foeke Wagenaar.

Three of the paintings were seriously ripped, said Ronald van Leeuwen, director of the museum, which claims to have the largest and most varied collection of the 19th-Century Impressionist’s work.

One of the damaged works was the vivid, haunting “Wheat Field With Crows,” which Van Gogh painted in the French town of Auvers-sur-Oise about a month before his suicide.

The holdup began at 3 a.m., when one of two night guards heard a noise and was confronted by a pistol-wielding man wearing a ski mask, police said.

The robber ordered the guard to turn off the museum’s infrared alarm system and then open the front entrance to admit a second man, police said. One of the guards was locked in a room and the other was held at gunpoint, police told a news conference.


The damaged works, in addition to “Wheat Field With Crows,” were “Still Life With Bible,” painted in 1885, and “Still Life With Lemons, Pears and Grapes,” painted in 1887.