CNN — 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 nearly 40 miles away in Amsterdam.
Arthur Brand, known for his work in recovering an early Van Gogh painting last month, as well as Hitler’s horse statues and a Picasso painting, told The Art Newspaper that he was sitting at home on Friday October 13 when his doorbell rang. “I was watching a boring (soccer) 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 (which turned out to be the stolen paintings) by a man who apparently was uninvolved with the theft, Dutch media reported. Brand brought the artworks up to his apartment before alerting the police.
The six paintings had been stolen from Medemblik’s former town hall after it was broken into at the start of September. In a statement at the time, the local authority confirmed a number of other objects, including a chandelier, had been taken and offered a reward of up to €10,000 (approximately $10,600) for “a golden tip” leading to their safe return.
“I think this was a direct result of the recovery of the Van Gogh last month,” Brand said of his efforts to find “The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring,” the artist’s 1884 work. “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 were 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 (or $106,000), include a portrait of ancient ruler 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 for the Medemblik municipality told The Art Newspaper that the find was a surprise.
“One of our executives had a message completely out of the blue,” she said. “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 anymore 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.”