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Photos of stolen Van Gogh handed to Dutch art sleuth

Burglars snatched the 1884 Van Gogh painting 'Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring' -- valued at up to six million euros ($6.6 million) -- from the Singer Laren Museum near Amsterdam on March 30
Burglars snatched the 1884 Van Gogh painting 'Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring' -- valued at up to six million euros ($6.6 million) -- from the Singer Laren Museum near Amsterdam on March 30 - ARTHUR BRAND/AFP
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Amsterdam (AFP)

A Dutch art detective revealed Thursday he has received two "proof of life" photographs of a Vincent Van Gogh painting stolen from a museum during the coronavirus lockdown.

Burglars snatched the 1884 painting "Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring", which is valued at up to six million euros ($6.6 million), from the Singer Laren Museum near Amsterdam on March 30.

Arthur Brand, dubbed the "Indiana Jones of the Art World" for tracing a series of high-profile lost artworks, said he was handed the photos a few days ago by a source he declined to identify.

The photographs, of which AFP was given two copies, show the painting, together with a front page of the New York Times newspaper of May 30 to prove when the photos were taken.

"After three months of intensive investigation, I was handed these pictures. This is the first 'proof of life' we have that the painting still exists," Brand said.

He added that the photos were "circulating in mafia circles".

In the photographs, a new scratch can be seen on the bottom of the painting, which Brand said he believed must have happened during the robbery.

Asked about the authenticity of the painting shown in the photos, Brand said one of them shows the back of the artwork featuring the so-called provenance -- the history of ownership -- which serves almost as a type of fingerprint for the artwork.

"There is no doubt in my mind that this is the genuine article," he said.

Brand, who declined to divulge how he obtained the photos, said he believed there could be a number of reasons the art thieves decided to circulate them.

"It could simply be that they are trying to find a buyer in the criminal underworld," he added.

Asked if he had passed on the information to the Dutch police, Brand said "he was following the usual channels".

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