A thief accused of stealing valuable artwork from two different museums as the coronavirus pandemic spread across Europe last year was caught, Netherlands police say.
According to authorities, a 58-year-old man suspected of swiping paintings by Dutch masters Vincent Van Gogh and Frans Hals was arrested at his home in Baarn, a town about 25 miles from Amsterdam, on April 6.
Dutch privacy guidelines prevent authorities from releasing his name.
“Unfortunately, we haven’t yet recovered the paintings and the investigation is continuing,” police spokesperson Maron Wonder said in a statement, noting the arrest is “a really important step in the investigation.”
The 1884 Van Gogh painting “The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring 1884” was stolen in a smash and grab from the Singer Laren museum last March. The museum was shut down due to the expanding coronavirus outbreak when the theft happened, the Associated Press reported.
“I’m shocked and unbelievably annoyed that this has happened,” the museum’s director, Jan Rudolph de Lorm, said at the time of the 10-by-22-inch oil on paper artwork that is valued at around $6 million.
Lorm noted the loss was “terrible for us all because art exists to be seen and shared by us, the community, to enjoy, to draw inspiration from and to draw comfort from, especially in these difficult times.”
Five months after the Van Gogh went missing, the Museum Hofje van Mevrouw van Aerden in Leerdam was hit and thieves walked off with the 1626 Hals work titled “Two Laughing Boys,” which is valued at around $18 million.
The piece had been stolen and recovered twice before it disappeared again in August.