Sunday, August 22, 2010

Have You Seen This Painting?

The only van Gogh painting in Egypt has been stolen...again. An 1886 still-life of poppies and viscaria (F324a, JH1137 for those keeping score in the catalogues raisonnés) disappeared yesterday from the Mohammed Mahmoud Khalil Museum in Cairo and contrary to early published reports, has NOT yet been recovered. (Note to CNN on tv: update your crawler.) This particular painting, valued at about $50 million, was purloined in 1978 but recovered in Kuwait a decade later; nine different paintings were taken from this same museum last year, so something is clearly amiss with security. Easy to see what: reports this morning are that only seven of the museum's 43 security cameras were working, and that none of the individual alarms on the museum's paintings worked, either. The museum's records show only ten visitors to the museum yesterday. Police tracked and arrested two of them, a young Italian couple, at the Cairo airport yesterday afternoon...but the painting is still at large. If you see it, call the cops immediately! (Wild speculation: could it be an inside job, with the Italian couple used as a diversion à la "The Thomas Crown Affair"? Someone who knew the alarms and cameras were not working? Hmm...)

I've noticed a couple of the news stories have illustrated the wrong painting with their reports: the one pictured here is the correct canvas. It is one of a series of floral still lifes produced by Vincent while he was living in Paris and thought to date from summer 1886 (some of the stories have the wrong date, too). They are 'practice pieces' -- studies Vincent did to explore his ideas about color theory. Friends and obliging local florists provided him with blooms to paint.