Vincent van Gogh, “The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring” (1884) (photo courtesy Groninger Museum)

Worldwide, museums have dimmed their lights and closed their doors to abide by social distancing regulations to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. Burglars in the Netherlands took advantage of the international emergency, using the closure of the Signer Laren museum as an opportunity to break into the museum in the dead of the night. After smashing the glass of the front entrance, the thieves escaped into today’s early morning with a Vincent van Gogh painting in tow.

Van Gogh’s “The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring” (1884) was snatched from the Signer Laren’s walls, located just outside of Amsterdam, on the Dutch Master’s would-be 167th birthday, March 30. The painting was on loan from another Dutch museum, the Groninger Museum. It is not yet apparent if any other works were taken in the heist.

The value of the 10-by-22-inch oil on paper painting is unknown. It depicts rural life in the Netherlands in gloomy tones; the Dutch master painted a church in Neunen, a Dutch village where his father was a pastor.

“I’m shocked and unbelievably annoyed that this has happened,” said the museum’s director, Jan Rudolph de Lorm, at a press conference. “It is very bad for the Groninger Museum, it is very bad for the Singer, but it is terrible for us all because art exists to be seen and shared by us, the community, to enjoy to draw inspiration from and to draw comfort from, especially in these difficult times.”

The thieves triggered the museum alarm, but by the time police arrived on the scene the burglars — and the painting — were gone. Authorities have now launched a criminal investigation.

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Jasmine Weber

Jasmine Weber is an artist, writer, and former news editor at Hyperallergic. Follow her on Instagram and