Having a famous painting stolen from is certainly embarrassing. That the painting was “Poppy Flowers” by Vincent Van Gogh compounds the embarrassment. That the theft happened before with the same painting from the same museum suggests a problem.
Fortunately, the Van Gogh masterpiece was recovered quickly-this time.
According to News Opi:
“Thieves have stolen a Van Gogh painting that is reportedly worth more than $50 million on the open market from Cairo this evening. Minister Farouk Hosni said that airport security confiscated the priceless painting from two Italians just after the artwork was cut from its frame at the Mahmoud Khalil Museum in the Egyptian capital. The painting, which is known as “poppy Flowers,” was one of the most popular paintings that Van Gogh had ever done. It was stolen from the same museum 30 years ago in 1978 as well. “
The last time “Poppy Flowers” went missing, it took two years to find the work in an undisclosed location in Kuwait.
“Poppy Flowers” is believed to have been painted by Van Gogh in 1887, three years before he committed suicide, and depicts red and yellow flowers in a vase.
Van Gogh was born in Holland in 1853 and, after unsuccessful attempts to be a clerk in a bookstore, an art salesman, and a preacher in the Borinage, settled upon painting. Van Gogh was never financially successful at art, having sold only one painting in his lifetime. Various health issues, including epilepsy and mental illness, contributed to his suicide at the age of 37 in 1890.
Ironically, paintings by Van Gogh now regularly sell for the tens of millions of dollars. Van Gogh is considered one of the most influential artists of his time. According to the Van Gogh Gallery website, “Van Gogh’s finest works were produced in less than three years in a technique that grew more and more impassioned in brushstroke, in symbolic and intense color, in surface tension, and in the movement and vibration of form and line. Van Gogh’s inimitable fusion of form and content is powerful; dramatic, lyrically rhythmic, imaginative, and emotional, for the artist was completely absorbed in the effort to explain either his struggle against madness or his comprehension of the spiritual essence of man and nature.”
This in turn makes Van Gogh paintings, such as “Poppy Flowers”, the prime target of art thieves. Clearly the Mahmoud Khalil Museum in Cairo has some security issues since it seems to have lost the same painting twice in the space of four decades. Other paintings have been stolen from the museum over the years as well. Will those security issues be addressed, or will more valuable paintings in its collection have to be removed, as some have suggested?
Sources: Poppy Flowers Van Gogh Painting Found, Jerry Reth, News Opi, August 21st, 2010
Vincent Van Gogh Gallery, Van Gogh An Overview