Vincent van Gogh’s Poppy Flowers
This Famous Antique Game - April 2016
By Mike McLeod
This is Vincent van Gogh’s Poppy Flowers that has been stolen twice and recovered once. It is still missing. Painted in 1887, it was first stolen in 1997 from a museum in Cairo, Egypt, and then recovered a decade later in Kuwait. It was again stolen from the same museum in 2010—none of the alarms in the museum were working at the time and only a few of the cameras.
Poppy Flowers measures about 25.5 x 21 inches, and while not very large, its value is quite high, as much as $50 million. Of course, thieves do not get retail value on stolen paintings when selling them. It is estimated that artwork sells for 10% of value or less. Even so, a $5-million payday tempts most art thieves. The other option with stolen artwork is to use it as currency in trade.
Poppy Flowers, stolen and still missing.
Vincent van Gogh at about 18.
Two other van Goghs are also missing: View of the Sea at Scheveningen and Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuene. They were stolen from the Vincent van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam in 2002; however, two men left enough evidence behind for them to be captured within a year. The paintings, valued at about $300 million total, have not been recovered.
The pair served about four years in prison for their crime. Unbelievably, under Dutch law, thieves can become the new owners of paintings they have stolen after 20 or 30 years in their possession if the rightful owners do not lay claim to them. This puts a news spin on the saying, “Justice is blind,” and it is bad news for the Vincent van Gogh Museum which holds 200 of his paintings and 500 drawings.
Van Gogh’s work is often a target of thieves, obviously for their monetary value, but also because he was so prolific in his short life of 37 years (March 30, 1853 to July, 29 1890). He created more than 800 paintings and a total of 2000+ pieces of art. His other paintings that have been stolen and fortunately recovered include: Blossoming Chestnut Branches; The Fortifications of Paris with Houses; Weaver's Interior; Four Cut Sunflowers; The Potato Eaters; Still Life Vase with Fifteen Sunflowers; Still Life with Irises; Wheatfield with Crows; Still Life with Bible; Digging Farmer's Wife; The Sitting Farmer's Wife; Wheels of the Water Mill in Gennep; and Breton Women, which was taken twice.
Art theft totals billions of dollars per year. The FBI maintains the National Stolen Art File for reporting stolen artwork.
Ted Carlton of Utah correctly identified Poppy Flowers.
Moroney, Lindsay, “Unsolved Art Heists: The Missing Paintings of Vincent van Gogh,” Nov. 22, 2013, News.Artnet.com.
(All photos: public domain, PD-US.)