A painting by Dutch post-Impressionist Vincent Van Gogh, worth an estimated $55 million, was stolen for the second time from a Egyptian museum. Investigators are looking into the possibility the theft was an inside job.
Egypt’s general prosecutor has barred nine Culture Ministry officials from leaving the country as part of an inquiry into the theft, the state daily newspaper al-Ahram reported.
The painting, known as “Poppy Flower,” was stolen on Saturday (Aug. 23) from Cairo’s Mahmoud Khalil Museum, which houses one of the Middle East’s finest collections of 19th- and 20th-century art.
The painting was stolen in the late 1970s but was recovered 10 years later, according to Ezz el-Din Naguib, a fine arts specialist.
Apparently the painting was ripe for the picking.
“Flagrant shortcomings” in security were found at the museum, according to Reuters. Only 7 of 43 security cameras were functioning properly at the time of the theft, the paper reported.
The 12-in-square painting of red and yellow flowers was cut from its frame.
Within hours, Egyptian ministers announced that it had been recovered in the hands of an Italian couple arrested at Cairo airport.
But yesterday embarrassed officials backtracked and said the picture was still missing, according to London’s Daily Mail.
The picture is believed to have been painted in 1887, three years before Van Gogh’s suicide at the age of 37.
The museum houses works assembled by Mohammed Mahmoud Khalil, a politician who died in 1953.
The works including paintings by Gauguin, Monet, Manet and Renoir.