Thieves steal Van Gogh painting valued at $50 million from Cairo museum

By Hadeel Al-shalchi, AP
Saturday, August 21, 2010

Thieves steal Van Gogh painting from Cairo museum

CAIRO — Thieves broke into a museum in central Cairo and made off with a painting by Vincent van Gogh valued at $50 million, officials said Saturday.

Egypt’s minister of culture, Farouk Hosni, said police have launched an investigation into the theft from the Mahmoud Khalil Museum and authorities at all the country’s airports and seaports have been notified and are on alert.

The artwork goes by two titles, “Poppy Flowers” as well as “Vase with Flowers,” the museum’s director, Reem Bahir said.

This is the second time the painting by the Dutch-born postimpressionist has been stolen from the Cairo museum. Thieves made off with the canvas in 1978, before authorities recovered it two years later at an undisclosed location in Kuwait.

But authorities have never fully revealed the details of the first theft of the painting. When it was recovered, Egypt’s then-interior minister said three Egyptians involved in the heist had been arrested and informed police where the canvas was hidden. Authorities never reported whether the thieves were charged or tried.

The one-foot-by-one-foot painting resembles a flower scene painted by the French artist Adolphe Monticelli, whose work deeply affected the young van Gogh. The Monticelli painting also is part of the Khalil collection.

Most of the canvasses for which van Gogh is remembered were painted in 29 months of frenzied activity before his suicide in 1890 at age 37.

Experts have said they believed the Cairo canvas was painted around 1887.

Other works in the Khalil collection, all from the 19th-century French school, are by Paul Gauguin, Gustave Courbet, Francois Millet, Claude Monet, Edouard Manet, Auguste Renoir and Auguste Rodin.

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