News / Middle East

Search Continues for Van Gogh Stolen From Cairo Museum

Authorities are still searching for a Van Gogh painting stolen - for a second time - from Cairo's Mahmoud Khalil Museum, 22 Aug 2010
Authorities are still searching for a Van Gogh painting stolen - for a second time - from Cairo's Mahmoud Khalil Museum, 22 Aug 2010

Egyptian authorities are still searching for a painting by the Dutch artist Vincent Van Gogh stolen from a Cairo museum, a day after mistakenly saying it had been recovered.

Officials say they have stepped up security at Egypt's borders to try to keep the artwork from leaving the country.

Egypt's culture minister Farouq Hosni initially said two Italians had been arrested at Cairo airport with the painting. He later said he had been given incorrect information.

Authorities say the post-impressionist work, known both as "Poppy Flowers" and "Vase with Flowers" was cut from its frame and smuggled out of the Mahmoud Khalil museum Saturday.

It is valued at some $50 million.

Officials at the state-run museum were not available for comment.  But an employee said the Van Gogh painting had been displayed in a room without a guard, and that the one security camera there was broken.

The museum was shut Sunday, while frustrated and saddened tourists were turned away.

Tess Larkin, from Dublin, Ireland, was among those who had been looking forward to seeing the painting, which she had been surprised to find during a past visit at the small palace-turned-museum on the banks of the Nile.

"Absolutely shocked to think that someone would rob a Van Gogh here in Cairo," she said.  "Shameful really."

It was not the first time. The painting was stolen in 1978 from the same museum, but later recovered in Kuwait.

A work of art by such a prominent artist is virtually impossible to sell on the open market, suggesting that it may be being held for ransom, or that the theft was commissioned by a wealthy, unscrupulous patron to display privately.

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