Thieves stole the painting Two Laughing Boys by Dutch golden age artist Frans Hals from a museum in the Netherlands, police said: the third time he was caught.
The work, valued at $ 18 million by an expert and dating from 1626, was taken from the Hofje van Aerden museum near the city of Utrecht before dawn on Thursday, with thieves entering the building through the back door .
The painting, depicting two laughing boys with a beer mug, had previously been stolen from the same museum in 2011 and 1988, after being recovered after six months and three years, respectively.
This is the second theft of a painting from a Dutch museum closed to the public due to the coronavirus pandemic, after a work of art by Van Gogh was stolen from the Singer Laren Museum in March.
Van Gogh’s 1884 painting Spring Garden has not yet been found.
“The hunt is on”
Dutch police said in a statement that officers rushed to the city museum 60 km south of Amsterdam after the alarm went off around 3:30 a.m. (01:30 GMT) but they did not failed to find the suspects.
“After the director of the museum was able to give access to the building, it turned out that the back door had been forced open and a painting had been stolen: ‘Two boys laughing’,” the statement read.
Police said they had opened a “full investigation” involving forensic investigators and art theft experts. They were checking cameras and talking to witnesses and local residents, they added.
Hals, a contemporary of the Dutch painter Rembrandt van Rijn, was born in the early 1580s in Antwerp and moved as a child to the Dutch city of Haarlem.
He started working as an art restorer before becoming a full-fledged portrait painter. He is best known for his painting The Laughing Cavalier, which hangs in the Wallace Collection in London, and The Gypsy Girl, now housed in the Louvre in Paris.
He died in Haarlem in 1666.
Dutch art detective Arthur Brand – dubbed “the art world’s Indiana Jones” after finding a series of stolen works – tweeted that “the hunt is on” for the “very important and valuable painting of Frans Hals ”.