A painting by Dutch master Vincent van Gogh has been stolen in a daring smash-and-grab raid on a museum that was closed to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
The Singer Laren museum east of Amsterdam said the artwork was taken early on Monday morning (local time).
The museum had been closed since March 12, under orders from the Dutch government to help control the spread of the coronavirus.
The stolen painting – 1884’s The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring – shows a woman in a garden with sparse red-flowered bushes and the church building in the background.
The 25-centimetre by 57-centimetre oil in paper work dates to a time when van Gogh had moved back to his family in a rural area of the Netherlands.
He painted the life he saw there, including his famous work The Potato Eaters, in mostly sombre tones.
— Van Gogh Museum (@vangoghmuseum) March 30, 2020
“We are angry, shocked and sad,” museum general director Evert van Os told a news conference broadcast on YouTube.
Museum director Jan Rudolph de Lorm went further: “I am extremely p—ed off that this happened. This is a huge blow. This is extremely difficult, especially in these times.”
“I’m shocked and unbelievably annoyed that this has happened,” Mr de Lorm said.
“This beautiful and moving painting by one of our greatest artists stolen – removed from the community.
Police said the thieves forced the building’s glass front doors open about 3.15am.
That triggered the museum’s alarms, but the thieves had vanished by the time police arrived.
By early afternoon on Monday, all that could be seen from the outside of the museum was a large white panel covering a door in the building’s glass facade.
It is not the first high-profile theft from the museum.
In 2007, thieves stole seven works from its sculpture garden, including a bronze cast of The Thinker by Auguste Rodin.
It was recovered a few days later, missing a leg.
The stolen van Gogh was on loan to Singer Laren from another Dutch institution, the Groninger Museum in the northern city of Groningen.
A Groninger spokesman said the museum was shocked at the theft.
The value of the stolen painting has not been revealed.
However, van Gogh’s paintings, which rarely come up for sale, fetch millions at auction.