Two Stolen Van Gogh Paintings Return to Public View After 17 Years


Two paintings by Vincent Van Gogh, stolen from a museum 17 years ago, are finally back in the public eye.

In 2002, thieves stole the Dutch painter’s works, titled ‘View of the Sea at Scheveningen’ and ‘Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church at Nuenen’, from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. They used a ladder to access the roof of the museum and broke in.

Van Gogh Museum

After a 14-year search and investigation of an Italian mafia-linked group, authorities recovered the paintings in Italy in 2016.

Museum staff spent two years examining the damage to the paintings and restoring them. On Wednesday, they hung them up in the galleries of the museum.

“We are delighted to be able to re-exhibit these important works from our collection in the museum, where they belong,” museum director Axel Ruger said in a statement.

“The restorers have done a brilliant job and the paintings will now be on permanent display in all their glory for all to see.”

Both paintings required conservation treatment

The paintings, which date from the 1880s, underwent conservation treatment before being put on public display again.

“View from the Sea at Scheveningen”, one of Van Gogh’s earliest oil painting works, was damaged during his absence from the museum. It is one of only two seascapes that Van Gogh painted in the Netherlands, according to the museum.

A chunk of paint was missing in the bottom left corner, but museum conservators filled it in using a 3D-printed mold replicating the original brushstrokes. The piece had likely ripped off when the painting was removed from its frame, the museum said.
Van Gogh painted "Sea view in Scheveningen" in 1882 while living in The Hague.  It is one of his first oil paintings.

Van Gogh painted “Sea View at Scheveningen” in 1882 while living in The Hague. It is one of his first oil paintings. Credit: Van Gogh Museum

During the conservation treatment process, they found the remains of a “Vincent” signature. However, the museum believes that Van Gogh himself did not write it.

Fortunately, the “Congregation Leaving the Nuenen Reformed Church” suffered virtually no damage, according to the museum. The painting depicts the church in Nuenen, a town in the Netherlands, where Van Gogh’s father was a minister.

Van Gogh painted "Congregation leaving the Reformed Church of Nuenen" to cheer up her mother after she broke her leg and had to stay in bed.

Van Gogh painted “The Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church at Nuenen” to cheer up his mother after she broke her leg and had to stay in bed. Credit: Van Gogh Museum

The museum found that the two paintings were covered with a varnish that did not exist before and which had yellowed over time. The restorers removed the layers of varnish and touched up the paintings.

When removing the varnish from the “Congregation leaving the Reformed Church at Nuenen”, they discovered another layer of varnish that Van Gogh probably applied himself. It is protein-based and marks the first time such a layer of varnish has been found in the painter’s early work.

The museum also selected new frames for the two paintings because the thieves removed the previous ones.


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