Dutch Art Detective Arthur Brand Has Recovered Six Stolen Paintings From a Mysterious Man With a Van

Brand’s latest score comes just over a month after he brought home a stolen van Gogh in an Ikea bag. 

Dutch art detective Arthur Brand with six paintings that had been stolen from Medemblik in September. Courtesy of Arthur Brand.

Just over a month after he brought home a stolen van Gogh in an Ikea bag, Dutch art sleuth Arthur Brand has recovered six more missing paintings. This time, the goods were delivered by a mysterious man with a van. 

Brand was watching television at home on a recent Friday night when his doorbell rang. At his stoop was the unidentified man, who asked for help unpacking some merchandise from his vehicle.  

“I asked him, ‘what are we going to unload?’” Brand recalled in an interview with the Agence France-Presse. “He said with a smile, ‘well, the paintings of Medemblik.'” 

Brand, who always has a knack for storytelling, knew exactly what his visitor was referring to: Six paintings had been stolen from the town hall of Medemblik, a northern Dutch municipality, in September.  

The monetary value of the artworks—an estimated €100,000 ($105,000)—may seem relatively minor, but their historical value is not. Included in the lot is a centuries-old portrait of William of Orange, a Dutch royal who ruled over England in the late 1600s, as well as the earliest known portrait of Radbod, king of the Frisians from 680 to 719. 

“Sometimes you only know how much something means to you when it is no longer there,” Medemblik’s deputy mayor, Jeroen Broeders, said in a statement. “That certainly also applied to these paintings. We are very happy with the role that Arthur Brand has played. He has once again lived up to his name as an ‘art detective.’”   

This is not the first time that strangers have shown up at the art detective’s door with missing objects in hand. But this instance, Brand said, probably had something to do with the media coverage he received for recovering van Gogh’s 1884 painting The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring last month. 

“Most likely [the Medemblik robbers] got scared,” Brand told the Art Newspaper. “Maybe there was a possibility the police were on their tracks already.”  

Given the difficulty of selling stolen pieces of heritage, he went on, art thieves often find themselves with few options after the initial crime. “You either burn it, which is a bad idea because when you are caught later you get extra prison time, or [you] dump it at my doorstep,” Brand said. 

Medemblik officials said that the paintings, which are set to be returned by Brand “soon,” do not appear to have been damaged in the incident. They plan to increase security measures around the town hall, too. “This will not happen to us again,” Broeders added. 

The municipality had offered a €10,000 ($10,500) reward for help in recovering the stolen artworks, but Brand said he had no plans to claim it: “I told them to give me a good book voucher.” 

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