Six artworks, stolen from the historic town hall in the quaint coastal enclave of Medemblik in North Holland, have made a dramatic return through an unconventional delivery method.
CNN reported that the paintings, valued treasures of local heritage, were transported nearly 40 miles to Amsterdam and handed over to the renowned art detective, Arthur Brand, who has recently gained recognition for his spectacular feats in recovering stolen art.
Brand, a figure celebrated for his pivotal role in the retrieval of an early Van Gogh masterpiece, the elusive Hitler horse statues, and a Picasso painting, recounted the extraordinary turn of events to The Art Newspaper.
On a Friday, October 13th, while engrossed in watching a less-than-thrilling soccer match where Holland was trailing France 2-0, Brand’s doorbell unexpectedly chimed.
In his own words, he described the situation, saying, “I was watching a boring (soccer) game: Holland was losing to France 2-0. They just called at my door on Friday night at 10.30 pm.”
A mysterious visitor beckoned him downstairs to receive a parcel, unaware of its contents, and it turned out to be the stolen artwork. The man delivering them appeared to be unconnected to the heist, as Dutch media reported.
With the stolen treasures now in his possession, Brand dutifully transported them to his apartment before contacting the authorities.
“These six valuable paintings were stolen from the former town hall of Medemblik, an audacious crime that took place at the outset of September,” Arthur Brand said. “I think this was a direct result of the recovery of the Van Gogh last month. That made headlines all over the world, and one of the reasons the Van Gogh was returned was that they couldn’t do anything with it—sell it or get a lesser sentence. Most likely, the Medemblik thieves got scared, and maybe there was a possibility the police were on their tracks already. You either burn it, which is a bad idea because when you are caught later, you get extra prison time, or they thought they would dump it at my doorstep.”
The stolen artworks, with a collective estimated value of approximately €100,000 (or $106,000), encompass a portrait of the ancient ruler King Radboud, a piece of particular local significance, along with portraits of Prince William of Orange, Maurits of Orange, Count Jan van Nassau, Queen Wilhelmina, and a biblical scene. These treasures are currently in police custody.
“A spokeswoman for the Medemblik municipality expressed her astonishment at the paintings’ sudden return,” Brand continued. She said, “One of our executives had a message completely out of the blue. It’s really extraordinary and a bit of a mystery, but for us, it is really good news. We are especially pleased that the painting of Radboud is back because it really belongs to our municipality.”
Deputy mayor Jeroen Broeders, in a press release, conveyed the profound sense of loss the town experienced during the absence of the paintings, stating, “Sometimes you only know how much something is worth to you when it isn’t there anymore, and that is certainly the case with these paintings.”
In a characteristically witty move, Arthur Brand declared that he would not claim the reward but added, “But I have asked for a book voucher.”
In a twist of fate, this art detective’s unexpected delivery turned the tide for Medemblik, restoring valuable heritage and reinforcing the notion that even art thieves cannot escape the long arm of the law.