Valued at an estimate between €1 million and €6 million, the painting was stolen on Monday from the Singer Laren museum in the Netherlands.
As if to abuse a grim situation, The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring from the Singer Laren museum was stolen in a reported overnight raid. The Van Gogh painting was part of an exhibition called “Mirror of the Soul,” which featured works by other artists as well, ranging from Jan Toorop to Piet Mondrian. The exhibit was put on hold, along with other museums, when the Dutch government banned large gatherings to halt the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The theft occurred at the early hours of March 30, ironically the 167th birth anniversary of Vincent Van Gogh. All that remained when officials arrived at the scene was the shattered glass door of the building’s facade. The painting, also known as Spring Garden, was only loaned to Singer Laren museum from the Groninger Museum. Current media values the painting at around €1 million and €6 million ($1.1 million to $6.6 million).
Jan Rudolph de Lorm, director of the Singer Laren museum shares, “I’m shocked and unbelievably annoyed that this has happened,” from a report by the Associated Press. “This beautiful and moving painting by one of our greatest artists stolen—removed from the community.” Lamenting the impact of the loss, de Lorm adds, “It is very bad for the Groninger Museum, it is very bad for the Singer, but it is 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.”
Painted at around May 1884, Spring Garden was made at a time when Van Gogh was living with his parents at the parsonage at Nuenen where his father was a pastor. The painting depicts the gardens in Nuenen with a darkly dressed figure in the foreground and an old church in the background. In a letter Van Gogh wrote to his friend and mentor, Anthon van Rappard, regarding the painting, he describes capturing the changed nature of the garden between the seasons. Translated from Dutch it reads, “Am also searching for the color of the winter garden. But it’s already a spring garden—by now. And it’s changed a lot.” The colors he mentioned are bleak, but Van Gogh’s use of green and red hues indicate the coming of spring and the end of winter. Whether there is a correlation between the motive of the thief, with the day of the artist’s birth and the nature of the painting itself, during these tense times—we’ve yet to know.