A Dutch man was sentenced to eight years in prison for stealing paintings by Vincent van Gogh and Frans Hals in 2020. In its ruling on Friday, the Central Netherlands Court also said the that the man, who was not identified in the sentencing, must pay €8.73 million ($10.2 million) to the owner of the Hals painting. Both the Hals and the van Gogh paintings remain missing.
The van Gogh, an early-career landscape titled The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring (1889), was stolen from the Singer Laren Museum just a few weeks after the pandemic’s lockdown began in the Netherlands. The painting had been on loan from the Groninger Museum in the northeast of the country. Security footage captured the man breaking into the museum using a sledgehammer.
The Hals painting, Two Laughing Boys with a Mug of Beer (ca. 1626–27), features two men partying, and was taken from the Hofje van Aerden museum in the Dutch city of Leerdam. The 2020 theft of that painting marked the third time the work had been stolen. According to documents filed with the court, the Hals painting had been insured at €16 million ($18.7 million).
The court said that the man’s crimes were serious. “These paintings are part of the national cultural heritage,” the verdict reads. “They are part of our past and are of great importance to present and future generations so that they can learn about that past. These are art treasures that, thanks to exhibitions in the now disadvantaged museums, anyone who wanted to could enjoy or comfort them over the years.”
In its verdict, the court also said that the man had been involved in a prior heist in Gouda. The New York Times reported that the 59-year-old man had previously taken a 17th-century gilded vessel from a museum in that Dutch city in 2015. Calling the man “an incorrigible and calculating criminal,” the court said that his prior conviction for that crime had “not prevented him from committing art theft again, which gives rise to fears of repetition in the future.” The man denied knowledge of and involvement in the 2020 thefts.
As the trial took place earlier this week, the Hofje van Aerden museum issued a release touting the importance of the proceedings. “It was good that our Hofje was represented at the trial,” the museum said on Tuesday. “It underlines the importance we attach to the possession of [our] Frans Hals.”