Van Gogh stolen from Egyptian museum for the second time

21 August 2010

A painting by Vincent van Gogh valued at £32 million has been stolen from a museum in Egypt.

The work, which goes by the name “Poppy Flowers” and “Vase with Flowers”, vanished from the Mahmoud Khalil Museum on the banks of the River Nile in central Cairo yesterday.It is the second time that the canvas by the Dutch-born post-impressionist has been stolen from the museum. Thieves previously made off with it in 1978, before authorities recovered it two years later at an undisclosed location in Kuwait. Egypt’s minister of culture, Farouk Hosni, said that police had launched an investigation into the theft, and that authorities at all the country’s airports and seaports were on the look-out for it.The one-foot-by-one-foot painting resembles a flower scene painted by the French artist Adolphe Monticelli, whose work deeply affected the young van Gogh. The Monticelli painting also is part of the Khalil collection.The theft of the work for the second time is embarrassing for the museum authorities, who are understood to be facing an inquiry into claims that security at the museum was lax. Exact details of the first theft of the painting have never been disclosed. When it was recovered, Egypt’s then-interior minister said three Egyptians involved in the heist had been arrested and informed police where the canvas was hidden. It remains unknown whether the thieves were ever charged or tried, or whether any kind of “ransom” was paid for the painting’s return.Experts have said they believed the Cairo canvas was painted around 1887. Most of the canvasses for which van Gogh is remembered were painted in 29 months of frenzied activity before his suicide in 1890 at age 37.The Khalil collection is home to one of the Middle East’s finest collections of 19th and 20th century art, put together by the politician Mohammed Mahmoud Khalil, who died in 1953.Other works in the collection, all from the 19th-century French school, are by Paul Gauguin, Gustave Courbet, Francois Millet, Claude Monet, Edouard Manet, Auguste Renoir and Auguste Rodin.

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