Showing posts with label Van Gogh. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Van Gogh. Show all posts

February 6, 2017

Press conference: The Van Gogh of the Camorra on display at the Capodimonte Museum in Naples

Via Miano, 2, 
80137 Naples, Italy

Live Periscope link to event

Image Credit: sAG
In a standing room only event, the two stolen paintings, View of the Sea at Scheveningen, 1882 and Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen 1884 - 1885 by Vincent Van Gogh were presented to the international press today at the Museo di Capodimonte in Naples Italy.  This press conference follows the convictions of eight members of the international drug trafficking Amato-Pagano clan, an organized crime network once affiliated with the Secondigliano-based Di Lauro crime syndicate, and an offshoot of the Naples Camorra.  The historic artworks were recovered during a lengthy investigation into the cocaine business overseen by figurative, Raffaele Imperiale.

Image Credit: sAG
The paintings, stolen 14 years ago, will be hosted for just 20 days on the second floor of the Museo di Capodimonte next to the Hall of Caravaggio through February 26, 2017.

Image Credit: ARCA
On hand for the press conference were Antimo Cesaro, State Secretary for Cultural Assets and Activities and Tourism in Italy, Joep Wijnands, Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Rome, Sander Bersée, Director General of Culture and Media of the Ministry of Culture and Science, the Netherlands, Luigi Riello, General Prosecutor of Naples, Giovanni Colangelo, the Public Prosecutor of Naples, Herman Bolhaar, Head of the Dutch Public Prosecutors, Lt. Gen. Giorgio Toschi, Commanding General of the Guardia di Finanza, Gen. B. Gianluigi D'Alfonso, Provincial Commander of the Guardia di Finanza in Italy, Pieter-Jaap Aalbersberg, Head of the Amsterdam Police as well as the undercover officers and investigators most closely connected to this case.

Image Credit: ARCA
Image Credit: ARCA
The Museo di Capodimonte is open every day except Wednesday from 08:30 to 19:30 (last entry at 18:30).

Image Credit: ARCA

Image Credit: sAG

Image Credit: sAG

Image Credit: sAG

Image Credit: Museo Capodimonte

Image Credit: Museo Capodimonte

Image Credit: VGM

Image Credit: VGM

Image Credit: VGM

Image Credit: VGM

Image Credit: VGM

Image Credit: ARCA



January 31, 2017

If paintings could talk...recovered Van Gogh paintings to go on exhibition in Naples February 6-26 before returning to the Van Gogh Museum


Dear Italian art lovers, 

Despite our lengthy stay in Campania and the hospitality of one of the Camorra's largest suppliers of cocaine to the Bay of Naples, it is, unfortunately, time for us to bid your country and its citizens farewell. 

Following the convictions handed down to our kidnappers, by Italian Judge Claudia Picciotti, we no longer need to remain as witnesses to testify to their crimes and have been informed by the judge that we are free to go home.

To show our appreciation to the fine officers of Italy's Corpo della Guardia di Finanza, which probes financial crimes related to organised crime, and to the Italian Public Prosecutions office, and to the Naples Direzione distrettuale antimafia and to the Dutch investigators who never gave up looking for us, our owners have persuaded us to stay in Naples for a few weeks longer.  

In this way, true art lovers, and not just mafia camorristi, can enjoy the beauty created by Vincent's fine hand.

Fourteen years and two months is a long time for us to be away from our beloved Netherlands and one of us desperately longs for the gentle touch of a conservator to help us heal from the wounds inflicted by our captors, not to mention the chance to shake this dust from our weary canvasses. 

Despite all that, and while we look forward with anticipation to returning to the Van Gogh Museum, we are happy that the director of the Museo di Capodimonte, Sylvain Bellenger and Axel Rüger, the director of the Van Gogh Museum, have encouraged us to remain for just a short while longer.  Under the care of their staff and advisors, we can rest and be exhibited in an atmosphere more befitting to us than a dusty crawl space behind a mafioso's workout gym. 

Being stolen when your famous only makes you more famous afterwards.  We suspect that for months, if not years to come, people will whisper about us, wondering what we went through and talking about the awful men who thought some day to use us, either for collateral or as a means to reduce their sentences for crimes worse than holding art hostage. 

But we as paintings prefer to dwell upon our younger and more carefree days, newly created on stretched canvas.  We like to remember when our paint was still wet and sand specks stuck to us in Scheveningen, the small fishing village where Vincent set up painting, partly to appease his brother Theo. Or when our Vincent began experimenting with colours to capture his mood at Nuenen, rather than using colours realistically.  Just like he sought, with his course application of paint, to define his own unique style, he brought each one of us to life giving each of us a little bit of his soul.  This is what we like to remember, not Vincent's tortured death and certainly not our time held captive by criminals. 

But enough of this talk about the past, let us try and stay in the present. 

Why don't you pay us a visit before we leave Naples for home?  

I am sure the fine people at the Capodimonte can point you to our room on the second floor.  From what we understand, we will be lodging with quite respectable company, in a room right next to the "Flagellation" by  Caravaggio. 

A hearty handshake in thought, and, believe me, 
yours, 

View of the Sea at Scheveningen 
and 
Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 

Exhibition Dates: 6-26 February
Via Miano, 2, 
80137 Naples, Italy
Hours: 08.30 to 19.30 daily, NOTE:  Museum is closed on Wednesdays
Ticket price: 8 €
Contacts and information: 081 7499111 

January 20, 2017

Camorra bosses convicted, Van Gogh's can go home to Amsterdam.......shortly.


This week Italian Judge Claudia Picciotti handed down more than one hundred years of prison time in the sentencing of eight members of the international drug trafficking Amato-Pagano clan, an organized crime network once affiliated with the Secondigliano-based Di Lauro crime syndicate, and an offshoot of the Naples Camorra.

The court's adjudication closes down one of the Camorra's largest suppliers of cocaine to the Bay of Naples area, paving the way for two recovered Van Gogh paintings, View of the Sea at Scheveningen, 1882 and Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen 1884 - 1885 to return home to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. 

The paintings were recovered during an asset seizure warrant executed in September 2016 at property occupied by the parents of drug kingpin, Raffaele Imperiale in Castellammare di Stabia, near Naples, Italy.

On hand for the sentencing hearing of the trial were:

Prosecutor Stefania Castaldi
Prosecutor Maurizio De Marco
Prosecutor Marra Vincenza
Deputy Prosecutor Filippo Beatrice
Prosecutor of the National Anti-Mafia Directorate Maria Vittoria De Simone
Dutch Liaison Magistrate for Italy Hester van Bruggen
Assistant to the Liaison Magistrate for Italy Royal Netherlands Embassy, Rome Peter Hemmes
Van Gogh Museum Attorney Carel Raymakers

The defendants convicted and sentenced January 19, 2017 include:

Carmine Amato - Before his arrest, Amato was one of Italy's 100 most wanted and dangerous criminals.  Considered the regent of the Amato-Pagano clan, a splinter organised crime group of the Di Lauro clan, dominant in the north of Naples, Amato was sentenced to twenty years imprisonment.

Vincenzo Scarpa - Drug supplier to Camorra clans in the Vesuvius periphery of the Bay of Naples, including the Gallo-Cavalieri, the Annunziata from Torre Annunziata, the i Falanga of Torre del Greco and the Licciardi of Secondigliano.  Scarpa maintained key alliances with Camorra loyal suppliers based in Spain and the Netherlands. He has been sentenced to twenty years imprisonment.

(Fugitive) Raffaele Imperiale - Clan boss of the international drug trafficking Amato-Pagano clan which supplied cocaine to Amato and Scarpa.  Although on the run from the authorities, he admitted to purchasing the Van Gogh paintings and to his illegal operations in letters to the prosecuting authorities.  Imperiale was sentenced to 18 years imprisonment in absentia.  He is believed to be hiding in Dubai.

Mario Cerrone - Clan affiliate and business partner to Imperiale, who provided evidence to state authorities. Cerrone also led Italy's Corpo della Guardia di Finanza, which probes financial crimes related to organised crime, together with the Italian Public Prosecutions office, the Naples Direzione distrettuale antimafia and dedicated Dutch investigators to the whereabouts of the two stolen Vincent Van Gogh paintings.  He has been sentenced to 14 years imprisonment.

Gaetano Schettino - A loyalist and drug broker for Raffaele Imperial, he has been sentenced to ten years imprisonment.

Three unnamed defendants - Sentenced to eight years imprisonment respectively.

Six other defendants are still awaiting the outcome of their judicial proceedings in relation to this criminal investigation.

Originally expected to be held as evidence for future lengthy trials, the court in Naples elected to release the Van Gogh paintings from legal seizure on Thursday.  While talk continues between the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and Sylvain Bellenger, Director of the Museo di Capodimonte about the possibility of holding a brief exhibition in Naples, provided security measures are sufficient to guarantee their safety, the Dutch Impressionist's paintings are expected to be returned to Amsterdam as soon as February.


Once back home, the artworks will go on display at the Van Gogh Museum briefly, in the condition with which they were recovered, to celebrate their return. Then the artworks will undergo close examination and conservation treatment to clean and repair damages sustained during their trubulent time with the Italian crime syndicate.

By: Lynda Albertson


November 15, 2016

Has a Toronto art historian uncovered a treasure trove of Van Gogh sketches? Probably not

Self Portrait with Straw Hat, July or August 1888, Arles
Attributed to Vincent Van Gogh  © Éditions du Seuil
Yesterday, at a much talked about media event at the Academy of Architecture in Paris, Bogomila Welsh-Ovcharov, a professor emerita in art history at the University of Toronto presented the findings of her new book, Vincent Van Gogh: The Lost Arles Sketchbook.  The book contains a grouping of sixty-five previously unknown sketches, primarily drawn using a reed pen with brown ink, which the historian asserts is a long-lost sketchbook, made up of drawings done by the artist while he lived in the south of France.  

Historically, there are four confirmed Van Gogh sketchbooks which encompass 150 drawings from the artist's stays in Antwerp, Nuenen, Paris and Auvers-sur-Oise. All four of the previously known sketchbooks are part of the Van Gogh Museum collection in Amsterdam and are meticulously stored in their prints and drawings archive, away from public view due to their sensitivity to light. 

These recognized sketchbooks contain rudimentary sketches and figure studies, with only a few more detailed and elaborate compositions. One of these, a sketchbook with a marbled inside cover, contains some of the artist's first known drawings of people and places. This sketchbook captures the rural life of the artist's stay in Nuenen. 


This pocket-sized sketchbook contains Van Gogh's sketch of the church in Nuenen. This not only dates the sketchbook, but it helps to authenticate the oil on canvas painting he later completed for his mother, Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church at Nuenen which was stolen from the Van Gogh Museum in 2002 and then recovered 14 years later in Italy

The newly discovered  40.5 by 26 centimeters sketchbook presented in Paris this month contains among other drawings, a self-portrait as well as portraits of bar-owners Marie and Joseph Ginoux, the artist Paul Gauguin, and a series of landscapes and still lifes.  There are also three sketches of the Yellow House on Place Lamartine in Arles.  Van Gogh rented four rooms in the now famous house on May 1, 1888. 

But the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam is not convinced of the sketchbook's authenticity.  On the basis of 56 high-quality photographs sent to the museum for consultation in 2008 and 2012, their experts gave an early opinion on its sketchbook's authenticity – an opinion omitted in this recent publication, most likely at the behest of the owners of the would-be Van Gogh album.

Citing the type of ink represented in the drawings, (Van Gogh used purple and black ink) the state of the paper and deviations in the technical skills and characteristic style of the famous artist's other sketchbooks, experts at the museum do not believe that these drawings are the authentic work of Vincent Van Gogh.  In a harsh rebuttal they stated that "the drawing style of the maker of the drawings in The Lost Arles Sketchbook is, in the opinion of our experts, monotonous, clumsy, and spiritless."

They also voiced serious concerns about the sketch book's provenance. 

The museum's public statement on the purported sketchbook can be read in its entirety here.

But Welsh-Ovcharov stands by her theory that the work is not a fake and has stated "Van Gogh experimented here with the rhythm of the lines and just distribution. Remember: these works are made without [a] perspective frame. And in a very short time. The drawings are not intended as finished compositions. Rather, they are doodles. "

Discovering a new sketchbook, flush with so many previously unknown drawings, 126 years after the artist's death would be highly unusual, but the choice of ink is also an anomaly. 

When Van Gogh sketched, he often favored pen-and-ink, using a quill, steel, or reed pen instead of black chalk, charcoal or pencils.  One of the inks he preferred was crystal violet (CV), a synthetic dye that was first made in 1883, not sepia shellac, as was used in this newly discovered sketchbook. 

Brightly-coloured CV triphenylmethane ink was inexpensive to manufacture and often replaced natural dye inks in works of art during Van Gogh's lifetime.  But the cheap ink came at a high price, one that proved devastating to the Van Gogh's authenticated sketches.  Crystal violet (CV) ink is very UV light sensitive. 

Photodegradation to Vincent's drawings, sketched using the ink, have discolored rapidly.  Some of the artist's drawings using the ink have turned various shades of brown and others have faded almost entirely.  This sorrowful reality can be seen in the contrasting photographs of one of Van Gogh's drawings below.

Montmajour (May/June 1888), drawing with purple ink,
Van Gogh Museum (Vincent van Gogh Foundation)
Left– 1928 photograph; Right –  2001 photograph
Time being a cruel master, Van Gogh's CV ink sketches have proven to be so sensitive to ultraviolet light that many of them are virtually unrecognizable.  To protect what remains, the museum's curators at the Van Gogh Museum have stored the bulk of the artist's ink drawings, his letters, and the four authenticated sketchbooks in the museum's archives, away from harmful UV light and of necessity, away from public view.  

Analyzing these historic photographs, we can see an eighty-year time lapse of the ink doing its damage.  The black and white photograph above and to the left is from Jacob Baart de la Faille’s 1928 premier catalogue raisonné des œuvres de Vincent van Gogh. The color photo above and to the right is from the Van Gogh archive. The image today is sadly almost unrecognizable and shows in detail just how severely the artist's purple ink drawing has faded, now just a former brown shadow of its former self.

Curiously, the images in the newly discovered sketchbook, reproduced in this YouTube video, remain crisp and vibrant, now matter how clumsily they were executed.  


By comparison, photographs of Van Gogh's drawings inside his four sketchbooks in the Van Gogh collection show that the artist's own drawings have not fared near as well.  Each of them has been preserved in the following digital collection albums:





Comparing the two, not as a professional curator, which I am not, but as a curious writer, I would ask Professor Welsh-Ovcharov why she thinks that the famous painter would have stopped using purple or black ink, switching to seppia shallac ink in this newly-found sketchbook, only to then revert back to CV ink later?  

I would also ask her why the sketches in the four Van Gogh Museum sketchbooks represent more rudimentary imagery than the more elaborate "doodles" she feels were drawn by Van Gogh this long lost album.

By: Lynda Albertson










 true then it would be the fifth known intact sketchbook Vincent van Gogh. The four previous examples date  and were previously published as a facsimile edition. 

November 4, 2016

Anatomy of a Confession - How much are two stolen Van Gogh's worth to an alleged Naples drug kingpin?

In recent developments on the Van Gogh recovery in Italy case, the newspaper La Repubblica has announced that Italian prosecutors have been contacted by the office of Sylvain Bellenger, Director of the Museo di Capodimonte about the possibility of holding an exhibition in Naples of the two Vincent Van Gogh paintings recovered during an asset seizure warrant executed in the Bay of Naples involving alleged-drug kingpin Raffaele Imperiale.  


At present, both paintings are being held under high security as evidence in the criminal case against 14 indicted defendants, 12 in custody and two with outstanding extradition warrants. How long the paintings will remain in Italy while the lengthy court case proceeds remains unclear. 


Since ARCA reported on the initial stages of the Van Gogh paintings recovery, witness testimony and written statements have now been made public which shed more light onto what law enforcement officers and prosecutors know about this cocaine syndicate's "acquisition" of the stolen Van Gogh artworks. 

One time partner and indicted associate Mario Cerrone informed Italian authorities that Raffaele Imperiale purchased the paintings with illicit proceeds from the Amato-Pagano clan's coffers. The Amato-Pagano clan, is a organized crime network once affiliated with the Secondigliano-based Di Lauro clan. This organized crime group is known to have supplied the Bay of Naples area with a steady stream of cocaine distributed by dealers working with the Camorra crime syndicate.

In testimony given as state's evidence, Cerrone indicated that Imperiale purchased the two stolen Van Gogh paintings shortly after the time of their theft in the Netherlands, sometime between the Autumn of 2002 and the first months of 2003. Considering the purchases as investment, Imperiale probably believed he could launder clan funds buying the paintings, then resell the Van Goghs for more than his initial purchase price once the case had grown cold.  Cerrone estimated that the Amato-Pagano clan accumulated USD $15 million annually in illegal crime proceeds meaning that the paintings were a significant investment. 

As most of ARCA's regular blog readers understand, selling stolen masterpieces on the licit art market is virtually impossible. From this we can hypothesize that Imperiale may have held onto the paintings following the arrest of the two thieves in the Netherlands, while planning how to use the artworks as a bargaining chip in replacement for illicit revenue.  

Given the artworks inestimable value, the paintings could have been used as collateral for the purchase of drugs, weapons, counterfeit goods or other clan-needed commodities, or for reducing the amount of liquid capital the clan would need to transfer during any given transaction making them a good substitute for reducing the clans exposure and risk.  As a final alternative, the paintings represented a bargaining tool with prosecutors for if and when members of the clan who knew about them, were arrested. 

Ironically, Raffaele Imperiale himself has now added more information to the puzzle by writing a six page written statement/confession/memoir which he sent from Dubai to the Naples prosecutors, Vincenza Marra, Stefania Castaldi and Maurizio De Marco, who along with the deputy prosecutor Filippo Beatrice and the prosecutor of the National Anti-Mafia Directorate Maria Vittoria De Simone coordinated the investigations conducted by law enforcement.  In his statement, the unrepentant Imperiale informed prosecutors that he has selected two lawyers to represent him, Maurizio Frizzi and Giovanni Ricco. Both Genovese attorneys have relationships with the Amato-Pagano clan.

In addition to naming his lawyers, and perhaps in consideration of lighter sentencing if convicted, Imperiale's statement went on to outline various aspects of his organization's illicit operation.  A direct quote from the clan leader's autobiographical confession, in which he implicates himself in organized crime and drug trafficking, is translated here:







Left - Raffaele Amato 
Top Right- Paolo de Lauro 
Middle Right - Mario Cerrone 
Bottom Right - Cesare Pagano



Imperiale went on to say that he had decided to collaborate with justice by giving his seized "treasure" to the state.  Some of the seized property include thirteen terraced villas in Terracina as well as twelve villas in Giugliano, five of which are ironically, subleased out to NATO under a shell corporation.  In addition to the real estate Imperial also plans to leave the Italian state a fleet of expensive cars  "to be allocated to law enforcement agencies for the fight against organized crime."

When speaking in relation to the stolen Van Gogh paintings, Imperiale indicated that he had purchased (without explaining from whom) "some goods", not simply the two Van Gogh paintings, paying five installments of one million euros each for a total of €10 million for both paintings.   

Sketch of Raffaele Imperiale in Dubai
Imperiale is currently still a fugitive, believed to be living in an undisclosed location in Dubai.  To date, the United Arab has responded negatively to requests for extradition, citing repeated technicalities in paperwork emanating from the Italian court system.

By: Lynda Albertson














September 30, 2016

2 Vincent Van Gogh Paintings Recovered in Italy, Suspected Camorra Entanglements

Breaking News - This article will be updated periodically as ARCA is able to release more news.


The FBI's "Top Ten" unresolved Art Crimes has now been reduced to nine thanks to the dedication and hard work of a division of Italy's Corpo della Guardia di Finanza, which probes financial crimes related to organised crime. Together with the Italian Public Prosecutions office, the Naples Direzione distrettuale antimafia and dedicated Dutch investigators, two of Vincent Van Gogh's historic paintings have finally been recovered during a labor intensive investigation into Italy's organized crime syndicate that is an offshoot of the Camorra.

Fourteen years after their theft from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam on December 7, 2002 the two paintings have been recovered during search and seizure operations connected to an ongoing international cocaine trafficking and mafia racketeering investigation.  The artworks were recovered earlier this week in the Castellammare di Stabia area in the Bay of Naples but were kept under wraps as the investigation finalized certain details.

In January 2016 Italian authorities arrested several individuals long suspected of overseas money laundering and international drug trafficking.  Two of those were affiliated with the Scampia splinter group of the Naples clan.  Raffaele Imperiale was the suspected head of the clan, also had ties to Amsterdam, where he reportedly owns or owned an Amsterdam coffeshop.

Until a few months before his arrest Imperiale had been living with his family in one of the most luxurious hotels in the world, the Burj Al Arab in Dubai, where a room costs upwards of €1500 per night.  Mario Cerrone, a clan affiliate turned state witness, is reported to have been the one who led the police to the paintings location -- Raffaele Imperiale's house at Castellammare di Stabia.

The art works recovered are:

View of the Sea at Scheveningen, 1882
by Vincent van Gogh
oil on canvas, 13 inches x 20 inches
Completed in Scheveningen


This small picture is considered to be one of Van Gogh's finest masterworks. Painted directly on the beach in Scheveningen where the famous Post-Impressionist artist set up his easel and painted “plein-air” (in the open air), Van Gogh's signature style of thickly applied paint still contained grains of sand which had blow onto the canvas and stuck to the paint as the artist worked. 

When ARCA asked investigators who had facilitated the identifications after the recovery of the painting if they had physical access to the paintings and if they could see these fine grains of sand, the investigator responded happily “I have seen them today. And I have smelt the sea.

In terms of its condition upon recovery Managing Director Adriaan Doenszelmann of the Van Gogh Museum stated that the painting appears to have sustained some damage to the paint in its lower left corner causing the paint to break away in an area of approximately 5 x 2 cm.  The painting will undergo full examination by conservators once the Italian authorities release the painting back to the museum.


Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen 1884 - 1885
by Vincent Van Gogh
oil on canvas 41.3 x 32.1 cm
Completed in Nuenen


This painting has been stolen on two occasions.  The first time was on April 14, 1991 when a total of twenty Van Gogh artworks were snatched from the Vincent Van Gogh Museum.  All twenty artworks were recovered in Amsterdam within 24 hours and the four perpetrators involved in that museum heist, including one museum guard and a former employee of the museum's security firm, were arrested and ultimately prosecuted.

Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen appears to have been recovered in fairly good condition.


Outline of the 2002 Van Gogh Museum Theft

Theft Venue: The Van Gogh Museum. The Van Gogh Museum houses the largest collection of the Post Impressionist Dutch masters artworks. In total more than 200 paintings and almost 500 drawings by Vincent van Gogh.
Location: Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Location in Venue: Rietveld Building
Victim (Owner): Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen is owned by the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. View of the Sea at Scheveningen is the property of the Van Gogh Museum 

Time of Theft:  Between 7:00 and 8:00 am on December 7, 2002
Open/Closed: Closed. The robbery occurred shortly before opening time.
Duration of Crime: Estimated at less than thirty minutes.
When Discovered: Immediately. When thieves smashed a window and entered the museum it triggered the museum security systems. 
Primary Object(s) Taken: Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen, 1884 and View of the Sea at Scheveningen, 1882 both by artist Vincent Van Gogh
Category of Art Object(s): Both artworks are small oil on canvas paintings
Ancillary Object(s) Touched: None
Ancillary Object(s) Taken: None
Clues Left at Crime Scene: At the entry point thieves left behind a cloth, likely used to reduce the sound of breaking glass,  one ladder, and a rope. They also left objects used to hide their identities, these last two items were found on the steps of the museum.

Suspected Related Crimes: Suspect Octave Durham’s reputation as a thief had already earned him the moniker “the Monkey” for his artful dodger activities.

Entry Method: Thieves used a 15-foot ladder propped up against a first-story window at the rear of the building. The glass window was then smashed with cloth-covered hands or alternative instruments in order for the men to gain entry. 
Exit Method: Same method as entry.
Operational Method: The thieves went straight to the two stolen paintings, removed only these two objects and then exited.
Other Methods of Note: Only method of concealment: head gear to discourage CCTV footage. 

Probable Motive: possibly financial, possibly organised crime related
Follow-up after Post-theft: After the suspects were preliminarily identified police tracked the men for over a year in locations in the Netherlands and in Spain.  Law enforcement authorities then wire-tapped the suspects’ phonesand eleven suspicious phone conversations were documented between February 17, 2003 and May 7, 2004.  
Revised Motive Theory: Financial gain. Likely organised crime related.  Based on the phone conversations and the suspiciously extravagant spending of the suspects after the theft, we can assume the paintings passed from the initial thieves to a secondary party, likely for a significant sum of money. 

Identified People Involved in the Crime
Handler(s): None publically announced.
Accomplice(s): Dutch-born Octave Durham, A.K.A. "The Monkey" and Henk Bieslijn
Organization(s) Involved: Investigators suspect possible Italian Mafia /Syndicate (Camorra) involvement.
Ultimate Possessor: Unknown.
Arrests: In 2004, police arrested Octave Durham in Spain and Henk Bieslijn in Amsterdam.
Total Length of Investigation: Ongoing
In March 2010 Giovanni Nistri, of the Comando Carabinieri Tutela Patrimonio Culturale stated that he believed that the pair stole the paintings on behalf of the Neapolitan Camorra. According to him at the time, there were "important clues to allow the presumption that members of the Neapolitan Camorra were somehow involved in the theft and the consequent possession of the two paintings. 
Evidence Used In Prosecution: Witness Testimony, CCTV Footage, 11 wire-tapped phone conversations, DNA evidence collected at the scene from discarded headgear found on the scene.  Financial records of the suspects directly after the theft which included suspicious purchases of high value including: watches, new furniture, home renovations, and foreign travel to Thailand, Euro Disney, Ibiza, and the Dominican Republic.
Criminal Sentencing: Octave Durham received a prison sentence of 4.5 years. Henk Bieslijn received a prison sentence of 4 years. In addition, each individual was ordered to pay the Van Gogh Museum €350,000 in damages. Despite their convictions, both continued to deny responsibility.

Artwork Recovered: Yes, in moderately good shape, the week of September 25, 2016

Why Steal Van Gogh?

Van Gogh, who in his lifetime only sold one painting, commands big figures in the contemporary art world. Eight masterpieces by Van Gogh paintings are ranked among the world's 50 most expensive artworks ever sold.    Echoing that, the wave pattern of art theft often mirrors the whimsy of the art market. Then thieves follow the path of least protection or resistance striking at objects known to be of value in places that allow for the opportunity.

How many Vincent Van Gogh artworks have been stolen? 


When opportunity has knocked, art thieves have often had a preference for works of art attributed to Vincent Van Gogh.   But just how many artworks by Vincent van Gogh have been stolen?  Take a look here. 

By: Lynda Albertson

When opportunity has knocked, art thieves often have a preference for works of art attributed to Vincent Van Gogh


When opportunity has knocked, art thieves have often had a preference for works of art attributed to Vincent Van Gogh.   But just how many artworks by Vincent van Gogh have been stolen? 

Van Gogh, who in his lifetime only sold one painting, has long commanded substantial figures in the contemporary art world. Eight of his masterpieces are ranked among the world's 50 most expensive works of art ever sold.    

Echoing that, the wave pattern of art theft often mirrors the whimsy of the art market. Then thieves follow the path of least protection or resistance and strike at objects known to be of value in places that allow for the opportunity.

Taking a look inside ARCA's database of art crimes involving the artist Vincent Van Gogh by our count, 36 Van Gogh works of art have been stolen, 3 of them two times each, over the course of 14 separate art thefts.

-----------

Stolen in 1937 - The Lovers: The Poet's Garden IV, 1888  is only known to the art world through an 1888 letter from Vincent Van Gogh to his brother, Theo. This artwork, likely an oil on canvas was completed the same year the letter was sent and may have been stolen by the Nazis during World War II.  The only known image of this painting is based the small sketch the artist sent to his brother along with his letter.  This work of art has never been recovered. 

-----------

June 4, 1977 - Poppy Flowers (also known as Vase And Flowers and Vase with Viscaria) 1887 was stolen from Cairo's Mohamed Mahmoud Khalil Museum and later recovered only to then be stolen again in 2010. 

-----------

February 17, 1975 – Van Gogh watercolour Breton Women (after Emile Bernard) also known as Les bretonnes et le pardon de pont Aven was one of 28 works of art stolen from the Galleria d'Arte Moderna in Milan, Italy. The painting was recovered in an apartment registered to an alias in Milan on April 6, 1975.  It too was stolen a second time, just one month later. See the individual theft post here.

-----------

May 15, 1975 - Van Gogh watercolour Breton Women (after Emile Bernard) also known as Les bretonnes et le pardon de pont Aven was stolen for a second time along with 37 other Impressionist and Post Impressionist works of art from the Galleria d'Arte Moderna in Milan, Italy. This follow-up theft included many of same artworks previously taken during the February 17, 1975 theft. The Van Gogh was recovered on November 2, 1975 in what was then West Germany along with ten other stolen artworks taken during the second the Galleria d'Arte Moderna theft. See the individual theft post here.

-----------

May 20, 1988 - Three paintings Vase with Carnations (1886) by Vincent Van Gogh, La maison du maître Adam Billaud à Nevers (The House of Master Adam Billaud at Nevers) painted in 1874 by Johan Barthold Jongkind and Bouteilles et pêches (Bottles and peaches) painted in 1890 by Paul Cézanne were stolen from the Stedelijk Museum, next door to the Van Gogh Museum on the Museumplein in Amsterdam.  All three works of art were recovered undamaged.  See the individual theft post here.

-----------

December 12, 1988 -  Three Van Goghs worth an estimated €113 million euros were stolen from the The Kröller-Müller Museum in Otterlo about 60 miles east of Amsterdam. The stolen works of art included the second of three painted sketches titled De aardappeleters, (the potato eaters) completed in 1885, as well as two other works Four Cut Sunflowers, (also known as Overblown Sunflowers from August-September), 1887 and Loom with Weaver,1884.  All three paintings were recovered but had sustained damages.  See the individual theft post here.

-----------

June 28, 1990 - Three early Van Gogh paintings, Digging farmer, 1885-87, Brabant Peasant, seated, 1884-1885, and Wheels of the Water Mill in Gennep were stolen from the Het Noordbrabants Museum in Den Bosch, Netherlands. The Digging Farmer was found in 1991 in a bank safe in Belgium. The other two paintings were returned in 1994 via negotiations with a tertiary party.  See the individual theft post here.

-----------

April 14, 1991 - 20 paintings by Vincent van Gogh were stolen from the Vincent Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. All 20 paintings were recovered within 24 hours. Three of the 20 paintings were severely damaged. Four perpetrators, including one museum guard and a former employee of the museum's security firm were arrested in July 1991.  See the entire list of artworks and the individual theft post here.

-----------

May 19, 1998  -  The prestigious Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna in Rome was robbed by three armed with guns shortly before closing time. The criminals stole two paintings by Vincent Van Gogh's L'Arlésienne, 1889 and Le Jardinier, October 1889 and Paul Cézanne's Cabanon de Jourdan, 1906.  On July 5, 1998 eight suspects were arrested and all three paintings were recovered.   See the individual theft post here.

-----------

May 13-15, 1999 - the Vincent van Gogh painting, The Willow, was stolen from the headquarters of F. van Lanschot Bankiers NV in Den Bosch. The painting was recovered in 2006 following an undercover sting operation where two suspects were arrested. See the individual theft post here.

-----------

December 7, 2002 - Two thieves using a ladder break in to the Van Gogh Museum making off with two paintings, View of the Sea at Scheveningen (1882) and Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen (1884). Following an intensive international investigation, two Dutchmen, Octave Durham, A.K.A. "The Monkey" and Henk Bieslijn were arrested in 2004 for their respective roles in the burglary. Durham received a prison sentence of 4.5 years. Henk Bieslijn was sentenced to 4 years incarceration. Each of the culprits were ordered to pay the Van Gogh Museum €350,000 in damages and both denied responsibility.  The paintings remianed lost for 14 years only to resurface in late September 2016 in the Castellammare di Stabia area in the Bay of Naples. During a blitz by Italian law enforcement on members of an illicit cocaine trafficking ring operated by  a splinter group of the Naples Camorra, the paintings were recovered.  See individual theft post here. 

April 26, 2003 - Three paintings including Van Gogh's The Fortification of Paris with Houses, Picasso's Poverty and Gauguin's Tahitian Landscape were taken from The Whitworth Art Gallery at The University of Manchester. The works of art were found the next day crammed into a tube behind a public toilet in Manchester's Whitworth Park. See the individual theft post here.

-----------

February 10, 2008 - Four paintings were stolen at gunpoint from a private Zürich gallery run by the Foundation E.G. Bührle in Switzerland. The paintings were Blossoming Chestnut Branches by Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Cezanne's Boy in the Red Waistcoat, Claude Monet's Poppies near Vétheuil and Edgar Degas' Count Lepic and His Daughters.  The Van Gogh and Monet were recovered on February 18, 2008.  The Degas was recovered in April 2012 and Cezanne's Boy in the Red Waistcoat was recovered April 12, 2012.  See the individual theft post here.

-----------

August 21, 2010Poppy Flowers (also known as Vase And Flowers and Vase with Viscaria) 1887 was stolen for the second time from the Mohamed Mahmoud Khalil Museum in Cairo.  Its current whereabouts are still unknown. 

By Lynda Albertson

February 10, 2008 - Museum Theft, Foundation E.G. Bührle, Switzerland


An art heist at gunpoint occurred on February 10, 2008 at the private Zürich gallery run by the Foundation E.G. Bührle in Switzerland. Emil Bührle was a German-born industrialist who sold arms to the Nazis during World War II.  The private museum was established by the Bührle family foundation in order to make the Emil Georg Bührle's collection, of mostly European sculptures and paintings more accessible to the public. The art collection is housed in an elegant Zurich villa adjoining Bührle's former residence.

On the day of the heist, three thieves rushed the gallery shortly before its specified closing time.  Brandishing a handgun, the staff on duty were ordered to lay face-down on the floor, after which the thieves removed four late nineteenth century artworks from the wall.  

The artworks taken were:

Blossoming Chestnut Branches, 1890
by Vincent Van Gogh
Oil on canvas 72.0 x 91.0 cm
Completed in Auvers-sur-Oise



Poppies near Vétheuil, 1879
Signed lower right: Claude Monet
Oil on canvas, 73 x 92 cm
Wildenstein 536


Count Lepic and His Daughters, 1871
by Edgar Degas
oil on canvas, 65 x 81 cm
Lemoisne 272


Boy in the Red Waistcoat, 1895
by Paul Cézanne 
oil on canvas: overall: 89.5 x 72.4 cm


On February 18, 2008, eight days after the theft, two of the stolen paintings, Poppies near Vétheuil and Blossoming Chestnut Branches, were found. The artworks were discovered undamaged in the rear seat of the unlocked getaway car  which had been abandoned in the parking area of a nearby Zurich psychiatric hospital a short distance away from the Bührle.

The painting Poppies near Vétheuil by Edgar Degas, regarded as one of the founders of Impressionism, was recovered four years later in April 2012. Information about its initial recovery was withheld from the public to avoid compromising an ongoing investigation with Swiss and Serbian authorities who were still actively working to recover the final painting by Paul Cézanne.

Lukas Gloor, director of the E.G. Buehrle Collection, speaks at a news conference
in front of the recovered paintings 'Blossoming Chestnut Branches,'
by Vincent van Gogh, Credit Christian Hartmann/Reuters
Cezanne's £68.3 million The Boy in the Red Vest was the last painting to be recovered.  It was located on April 12, 2012 inside a hidden roof car panel inside an automobile belonging to a suspect arrested in Belgrade, Serbia. 








May 13, 1999 - Private Collection Theft, F. van Lanschot Bankiers NV, Den Bosch, The Netherlands

Vincent Van Gogh The Willow, 1885 with Dr. H,J, Hijmersma,
conservator to the F. van Lanschot Bankiers NV Collection
Sometime between the evening of May 13 and the morning of May 15 in 1999 a early Vincent van Gogh painting titled The Willow, 1885 was stolen from the headquarters of F. van Lanschot Bankiers NV in Den Bosch in the Netherlands. s-Hertogenbosch is the official name of the city, but colloquially almost everybody refers to the city as Den Bosch, which translates in English to mean 'the Duke’s Forest'. F. van Lanschot Bankiers NV is the oldest bank in the Netherlands. 

In March 2006 the bank contacted authorities stating that a gentleman had approached them asking about a reward for information leading to the recovery of the stolen work of art.  The bank in turn contacted the authorities. 

Two suspects, the suspected thief, who was at one time a cleaner for the bank and the would-be seller/award seeker were then approached by undercover officers who posed as insurance art loss adjusters interested in buying back the painting. 

Both individuals were arrested and the painting was recovered.  It is now back in the bank's collection.  

By Lynda Albertson

April 14, 1991 - Museum Theft, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

oil on canvas, 95 cm x 73 cm 
This spectacular theft occurred at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam during the predawn hours of Sunday, April 14, 1991.  It is considered to be the largest art heist in the Netherlands subsequent to World War II, as well as the fastest recovery time for stolen works of art from an important collection.

Twenty paintings by the Dutch master Vincent van Gogh, including one of his iconic Still Life: Vase with Fifteen Sunflowers (1889) were stolen from the museum by thieves; one who concealed himself in the gallery the previous evening and another, who was let his accomplice into the museum during the theft.

At the time of the robbery, the value of the stolen art was estimated at USD $500 million. 

Listed below are all the artworks taken during the theft, some with photos.

The Bedroom, 1888
oil on canvas, 72.0 x 90.0 cm
Completed in Arles



Wheatfield with Crows, 1890 
oil on canvas, 50.5 cm x 103 cm 
Completed in the French village of Auvers-sur-Oise just one month before Vincent committed suicide on the 29th of July in 1890


The Sower, 1888
oil on canvas, 32.5 cm x 40.3 cm 
Completed in Arles


The Potato Eaters, the final version, 1885
oil on canvas, 82 cm x 114 cm
Completed in his hometown of Nuenen


Still Life: Vase with Violet Irises Against a Yellow Background, 1890
oil on canvas, 92.7 cm x 73.9 cm 
Completed in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence


Still Life with Open Bible, Extinguished Candle and Novel 
also known as Still Life with Bible, 1985
oil on canvas, 65.7 cm x 78.5 cm
Completed in Nuenen


Still Life with Quinces, Lemons, Pears and Grapes, 1887
Oil on Canvas with a painted frame, 48.5 x 65.0 cm.
Completed in Paris



                              Almond Blossoms (with branches), 1890

                              Basket of Apples, 1885

                              The Bridge of Langlios, 1888

                              Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen,                                     1884 - 1885

                              Field with trees, the Château d'Auvers, 1890

                              Flowering Orchard, 1889

                              Leather Clogs, 1889

                              Oiran (Japanese courtesan), 1887

                              Self Portrait as a Painter, 1887 - 1888

                              Shoes, 1887

                              Tree Roots, 1890

                              Wheatfield with a Reaper, 1889

At the time of the robbery, two night watchmen heard sounds coming from inside the museum at approximately 3 AM local time, indicating that there was in intruder in the building.  Upon investigating, they were confronted by a man brandishing a pistol and wearing a balaclava to disguise his face.  This individual then forced the guards to disable the museum's security devices and allowed his accomplice access into the museum.  

Both thieves then reportedly confined the guards before setting about removing the twenty works of art.  In less than an hour they had filled two expandable garment bags to the brim with the Dutch Post-Impressionist artist's works.  The criminals then used one of the guards cars as their getaway vehicle, scrunching all the artworks inside before hopping in with them to make a fast get-away.

At 4:48 am, one minute after the thieves departed, the guards called-in the robbery to Amsterdam authorities. A grey Volkswagen Passat, matching the description of the guard's stolen car was located unlocked and abandoned at the site of the Amstel train station at 5:23 A.M.  A search of the car, revealed that all the paintings were accounted for, all still stuffed into the garment bags the thieves had used when removing them from the museum.

Three paintings, including Wheatfield with Crows, were severely damaged. 

Three months later, on July 18, 1991, authorities announced that they had arrested four Dutchmen for their roles in the botched predawn April robbery. One of the four men charged turned out to be one of the two security guards working inside the museum at the time of the theft.   A second accomplice was a former employee of the museum's security firm.  The two remaining joint principles to the crime were the apparent masterminds, each of whom had made promises to the museum insider and former contractor that they would receive a substantial fee for facilitating the robbery. 

Subsequent to the arrests, police stated the thieves had abandoned the paintings in the guard's car and fled the scene when their second get-away vehicle failed to arrive, apparently due to a flat tire. 

All four perpetrators were sentenced to prison terms.

By: Lynda Albertson