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Six paintings stolen from an old town hall in the small coastal town of Medemblik in north Holland have been returned via an unusual doorstep delivery to an art detective in Amsterdam.
Arthur Brand, known for his work in recovering an early Van Gogh painting last month as well as Hitler’s missing horse statues and a Picasso painting, tells The Art Newspaper that he was sitting at home when his doorbell rang. “I was watching a boring football game: Holland was losing to France 2-0,” he said. “They just called at my door on Friday night at 10.30pm.”
He was asked to come downstairs to unload a delivery by a man who apparently was uninvolved with the theft, Dutch media reported. He brought the six historical paintings up to his flat before alerting the police.
“I think this was a direct result of the recovery of the Van Gogh [The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring (1884)] last month,” Brand says. “That made headlines all over the world and one of the reasons the Van Gogh was returned was that they couldn’t do anything with it—sell it or get a lesser sentence.
“Most likely [the Medemblik thieves] got scared and maybe there was a possibility the police was on their tracks already. You either burn it, which is a bad idea because when you are caught later you get extra prison time, or they thought they would dump it at my doorstep.”
The paintings, which together are thought to be worth around €100,000, include a portrait of King Radboud—which is considered of particular local significance—and portraits of Prince William of Orange, Maurits of Orange, Count Jan van Nassau, Queen Wilhelmina and a scene from the Bible. The paintings are currently with the police.
A spokeswoman from Medemblik municipality tells The Art Newspaper that the find was a surprise. “One of our executives had a message completely out of the blue,” she says. “It’s really extraordinary and a bit of a mystery, but for us it is really good news. We are especially pleased that the painting of Radboud is back because it really belongs to our municipality.”
Deputy mayor Jeroen Broeders said in a press release that “sometimes you only know how much something is worth to you when it isn’t there any more and that is certainly the case with these paintings.”
Brand said he would not claim the reward. “But,” he added, “I have asked for a book voucher.”