Stolen Van Gogh recovered hours after theft
Published 22/08/2010 | 05:00
POLICE recovered a painting by Vincent van Gogh at Cairo airport yesterday, hours after it was stolen from a museum in the Egyptian capital.
Security officers at Cairo airport confiscated the painting from two Italians -- a man and a woman -- as they were trying to leave the country.
A source said that the man claimed he had bought the painting from an Egyptian and was not aware it that had been stolen -- however the couple had reportedly "aroused suspisicion" among staff while they visited Cairo's Mahmoud Khalil Museum.
The painting, which was valued at €50m goes by two names, 'Poppy Flowers' and 'Vase with Flowers' -- and it was the second time the piece by the Dutch-born post-impressionist had been stolen from the Khalil museum.
Thieves first made off with the canvas in 1978, before authorities recovered it some two years later at an undisclosed location in Kuwait.
Officials have never fully revealed the details of that theft. When it was recovered, Egypt's then-interior minister said three Egyptians involved in the heist had been arrested and had 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 is also 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.
Nine paintings of 19th century Egyptian ruler Mohammed Ibrahim Pasha were stolen from the same museum last year, but found 10 days later dumped outside.