Painting by Dutch master Frans Hals is taken by thieves who forced open a museum door in the early hours – the THIRD time the £10million 1626 work has been stolen since 1988
- The Hofje van Aerden Museum’s alarm was triggered at 3.30am this morning
- Agents discovered the Two Laughing Boys work was missing when they arrived
- Experts said criminals target smaller museums because they have less security
A painting by Dutch master Frans Hals has been stolen from a small museum near Utrecht, marking the third time the work has been snatched.
Two Laughing Boys, valued at £10million and dating from 1626, was taken from the Hofje van Aerden Museum in the Netherlands after thieves broke into the building from the back door in the early hours of Thursday.
The alarm was triggered at 3.30am but thieves had vanished by the time agents arrived at the scene.
Experts said that criminals know smaller regional museums, like the Hofje van Aerden, have fewer security measures in place than the more major ones.
Two Laughing Boys is valued at £10million and dates as far back as 1626
Two Laughing Boys has been stolen twice before in its four-century history, including as recently as May 2011 from the same museum.
Police recovered it later that year after arresting four men who tried to sell it.
The theft today marks the second time a painting from a Dutch museum that remains closed to the public amid the coronavirus pandemic has been stolen.
Earlier this year in March, Van Gogh’s 1884 Spring Garden was stolen from the Singer Laren Museum, and has yet to be recovered.
‘Around 3:30 a.m. the alarm went off, and agents went straight to the museum,’ police said in a statement, calling for witnesses.
‘After the museum’s manager could grant access to the area and building, it emerged that the back door had been forced open and one painting had been stolen.’
Hals began to work as an art restorer before becoming a portrait painter in his own right
RTL Nieuws cited art expert Arthur Brand as estimating the painting’s value at around 15 million euros.
‘Criminals know that major museums have sufficient security,’ he told the Dutch broadcaster, but smaller regional museums less so.
‘They probably concluded it’s worth a lot of money, and it’s relatively easy to steal.’
Hals, a contemporary of Dutch painter Rembrandt van Rijn, was born in the early 1580s in Antwerp and moved as a child to the Dutch city of Haarlem.
He began to work as an art restorer before becoming a portrait painter in his own right.
He is best known for his painting ‘The Laughing Cavalier’ as well as some of his life-size group portraits. He died in Haarlem 1666.
A spokesman for the museum referred all questions to the police.
Other major art thefts in recent years
Armed robbers stole Edvard Munch’s ‘The Scream’ from the Munch Museum in Oslo, the second time in 10 years that a version of the painting was stolen
April 1991, Amsterdam – In what was then billed as the world’s biggest art robbery, 20 paintings, estimated to be worth $500 million, were stolen from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, including Vincent Van Gogh’s ‘The Potato Eaters’.
They were found shortly afterwards in an abandoned car not far away.
Nov 1993, Stockholm – Eight works by Pablo Picasso and French cubist Georges Braque, valued at some $60 million, were stolen from Stockholm’s Modern Museum.
Some were recovered in the following months.
Dec 2001, Stockholm – ‘Conversation’ and ‘A Young Parisienne’ by French impressionist Pierre-Auguste Renoir and a self-portrait by Dutch master Rembrandt van Rijn were stolen from Stockholm’s National Museum. ‘Conversation’ was recovered the following April, the Rembrandt portrait in 2005.
Dec 2002, Amsterdam – Two Van Gogh oil paintings worth an estimated $56 million each were snatched by thieves in a daring robbery at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.
Both paintings were found in Naples in 2016 at the country house of an alleged mafia drug smuggler.
Aug 2003, Drumlanrig Castle, Scotland – Thieves stole the ‘Madonna of the Yarnwinder’ by Leonardo da Vinci.
The work, painted in the early 16th century, was valued at about $53 million. It was recovered in Scotland four years later.
Aug 2004, Oslo – Armed robbers stole Edvard Munch’s ‘The Scream’ from the Munch Museum in Oslo, the second time in 10 years that a version of the painting was stolen.
Thieves also took Munch’s ‘Madonna’. The paintings, from 1893, were recovered in August 2006.
Dec 2004, Sao Paolo – In Brazil thieves stole Picasso’s 1904 work ‘Portrait of Suzanne Bloch,’ worth up to $50 million, and local painter Candido Portinari’s 1939 ‘The Coffee Worker,’ valued at about $5.5 million, from Sao Paulo’s leading art museum.
Both paintings were recovered the next month.
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