| A handout picture of View of the Sea at Scheveningen. (AFP)
Amsterdam, Dec. 7 (Reuters): Two Vincent Van Gogh oil paintings were snatched by thieves today in a daring robbery at an Amsterdam museum dedicated to the tortured 19th century Dutch artist.
Thieves scrambled onto the roof of the Van Gogh Museum using a ladder and descended into the building before disappearing with two world-renowned oil paintings before the museum opened its doors for the day, police said.
The thieves, who triggered the burglar alarm, fled with the oil paintings, Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen and View of the Sea at Scheveningen, from the museum with the largest Van Gogh collection in the world.
“Just before eight (am), they disappeared. There is still a police investigation going on,” a museum spokeswoman said. She said she could not put a value on the paintings. In 1998, a Van Gogh self-portrait sold at auction in New York for $71 million.
Van Gogh paintings were stolen from the same museum in 1991. In 1998, masked gunmen snatched two Van Gogh paintings in Italy which were later found.
Van Gogh, famous for his intense use of colour and emphatic brush strokes, is considered the greatest Dutch artist after Rembrandt. He painted some of his greatest works while living in the south of France.
Born on March 30, 1853, in the village of Zundert in the southern Netherlands, Van Gogh also lived in London, Brussels, Antwerp and Paris. He led a troubled life and suffered from a psychotic episode in the late 1880s when he cut off a piece of his left ear.
He died in 1890 after shooting himself in the chest.
He sold only one painting in his lifetime.
His most famous work Sunflowers, also hangs in the Amsterdam museum.
The stolen paintings date from the early period of his work. Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen, an oil painting on a small canvas, was painted in early 1884 for Van Gogh’s parents.
The church in the picture is the one where his father was a pastor. The painting features a congregation outside a church on a dark autumn day.
View of the Sea at Scheveningen, painted in 1882, is a view of the North Sea at a beach resort near The Hague set against a dark thundery sky.
The Van Gogh raid was the second major theft in the Netherlands this week.
On Monday, thieves stole diamond jewellery worth millions of euros from a Dutch museum exhibiting tiaras and necklaces borrowed from European kings and queens.
The Van Gogh Museum houses more than 200 paintings and 600 drawings by the artist. Around 1.5 million people have visited it so far this year.