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Two Van Gogh Paintings Stolen

Thieves take the early works, worth millions of dollars, from a Dutch museum dedicated to the artist.

December 08, 2002|From Times Wire Services

AMSTERDAM — Thieves stole two Vincent van Gogh paintings worth millions of dollars in a daring theft Saturday from an Amsterdam museum dedicated to the tortured 19th century Dutch artist.

Alarms went off at 8 a.m., two hours before the Van Gogh Museum opened. By the time police got to the scene, the thieves had vanished, museum director John Leighton said.

Police found a 15-foot ladder leaning against the rear of the building. The thieves had climbed to the second floor and broken a window, police spokeswoman Elly Florax said.

One missing painting was "View of the Sea at Scheveningen," a small picture of a boat setting off into a stormy sea that was painted in 1882. The thickly applied paint contains grains of sand blown onto the canvas from the North Sea beach where Van Gogh worked. It is one of his first major pieces.

The second filched work was "Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen," painted in 1884-85, which shows the village church where Van Gogh's father served as pastor.

"The 'Reform Church' was emotionally important. He probably meant it as a souvenir for his mother," Leighton said.

Van Gogh paintings were stolen from the same museum, in the heart of the Dutch capital, in 1991. His most famous work, "Sunflowers," was among the works stolen then, but the masterpieces were later recovered.

In 1998, masked gunmen snatched two Van Gogh paintings in Italy. Those works were also later found.

On Monday, thieves stole diamond jewelry from a museum in the Netherlands exhibiting tiaras and necklaces borrowed from European royalty.

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