Why criminals steal expensive art: ‘They hope for a reduced sentence’ | NOW

The Museum Hofje van Mevrouw van Aerden in Leerdam has had the painting for nine months after a burglary Two smiling boys by Frans Hals. On Tuesday, the suspect in the theft was arrested, the third person ever to take the painting from the museum. Why is this work so loved by criminals? NU.nl puts the question to art detective Arthur Brand.

The painting Two smiling boys was made between 1626 and 1627 by Hals (1582-1666). The artwork has been owned by the Hofje van Mevrouw van Aerden in Leerdam, Utrecht, for almost 250 years, which became a museum in 2007. The work has an estimated value of 15 million euros.

The work has now been stolen a total of three times. The masterpiece was first stolen in 1988, together with Forest view with flowering elderberry by Jacob van Ruisdael. The works were recovered three years later. In 2011, both paintings were lost for six months. The four perpetrators have been arrested and convicted.

So in August 2020 it was again hit, especially on the birthday of Hals. Two perpetrators forced the back door of the museum at night and took the work with them. The 58-year-old man from Baarn who was arrested on Tuesday would be responsible for this, but he would also be the one who was arrested in April 2020 Spring garden, the pastor garden in Nuenen van Vincent van Gogh stole from the Singer Museum in Laren in the spring.

The Hofje van Aerden.

The Hofje van Aerden.

The Hofje van Aerden.

Photo: Hofje van Aerden

‘Criminals are not art connoisseurs’

It is not special that art is stolen. But that a work is taken (and found again) several times, yes. According to art detective Arthur Brand, criminals are increasingly using valuable art as ‘change’ when serious criminals are arrested. They then offer the work, hoping to get a reduced sentence in return. This also happened to criminal Kees Houtman, who prevented two Van Gogh’s offers and an appeal against his sentence in return.

“Now it appears that the same man is behind the theft of the work of Van Gogh and Hals, this theory appears to be correct”, the art detective tells NU.nl. “The works have been stolen for the same purpose.” Last year, Brand discovered who owned the Van Gogh. “Then there was panic and people wanted to look for another painting to be able to offer.

So that became the Frans Hals. Criminals are usually not art connoisseurs. They Google ‘stolen art’, the first thing you see is the Hals. It hangs in a small museum and has been stolen twice before. museums that warned a Van Gogh, and extra security was called in. So the criminals thought: what more is there to get? “

Whether the 58-year-old man himself stole the work from the museums in both cases or whether he also asked for help for this, remains to be seen. “The police tracked down the perpetrator by hacking into a crypto phone (secure means of communication used by criminals to communicate), so they will be able to find other conversations as well. I assume they will track these people down. ” Transport boss Peter K. has previously been arrested for healing the Van Gogh.

Drink organ that cannot stay off the bottle

Hals, together with Johannes Vermeer and Rembrandt van Rijn, is one of the masters of the Golden Age. He made many portraits of wealthy people, but also painted people from contemporary life who caught his eye.

That also includes Two smiling boys, on which a ‘kannekijker’ (an old Dutch word for a drinking organ that cannot stay off the bottle) is depicted. Behind the boy with a pitcher of beer, another laughing boy can be seen. The work would be part of a series of paintings that Hals made about the different senses.

After the art theft in 2011, security in the Hofje van Mevrouw van Aerden Museum has been considerably increased. The place where the most expensive paintings hang is not directly accessible to the public and can only be visited under supervision. The museum is still closed due to the corona crisis.

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