The delightful game of cat and mouse continues, my dear Arthur
I’m sure you’ve heard about it by now: Van Gogh’s painting The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen, believed lost to the world of con artists and scoundrels since it was stolen three years ago, has been returned to art investigator Arthur Brand in an IKEA bag. Dear, dear Arthur, you still allow the world to call you the “Indiana Jones of the art world.” Did you enjoy our last duel, my sweet little one? Licorice? I appreciate you saying Watchman“Someone called me and said, ‘Mr. Brand, I can deliver Van Gogh, but I don’t want to get in trouble.'”
Sure I could have stuck with the board longer, but you seemed to get bored, and the headlines became duller and less impressive. Such a difference from three years ago, when my audacious heist crashed at the Singer La Reine Museum just as the world shut down to the dreaded coronavirus. Who could pass up such an opportunity – the Dutch countryside is on the cusp of tulip season? Beauty is my inspiration, silly Pancakes!
What you and I understand is that the “priest” is clay turned into fabric! She doesn’t even have a proper frame! It is raw and muted, all subtle scratches and none of the confident brushwork, and certainly not the color that Van Gogh would become known for in his later works. He was hideous for petty thieves, and that gave me the perfect opening, because only a gentleman thief like me could appreciate that his true value came from his place in the Van Gogh canon, and his demonstration of his progress and maturity! It’s not Vermeer’s business that you put on top of the mantle in your chalet in St. Moritz to enjoy with other plump financiers while you pour Lafite Rothschild’s palace within sight of the alpacas.
How did you feel when you saw the masked monster in the security footage? Clearly someone of my cunning must rely on hired muscle to follow complex instructions while I wait patiently on my getaway scooter. Very stylish and fuel efficient. Ha ha, of course I realized that at the time those simple minions I hired were arrested and sent to prison, that I, like the painting you wished for, remained in the wind. I couldn’t help but send you a delightful photo of the painting months later. It was foolish and predictable for the press to call it ransom! Who cares about kidnapping heirs who are indifferent to their modern concerns and rude TikTok! The photo was just a postcard to let you know that Vincent’s work was much loved.
But I know you better than you know yourself, Arthur. You live for the game, just like I do! This vast network of scoundrels and crooks you know well. How else can you explain this naughty little tendency of yours to “recover” stolen artifacts that seem to end up on your doorstep, time after time, without any violence or threat. There was the dazzling reliquary Précieux Sang. And how can we forget your famous return of Picasso’s Woman, lost for 20 years, and for at least one night after the doorbell rings, you must devour it alone.
How could a man like this navigate the waters of a master thief? Is it the simple, classic cashmere turtleneck shirts he wears? Or those “bright blue eyes, floppy hair and wry smile” as the BBC described them? How long do we have to do this silly dance, Arthur? You, the handsome detective who’s not afraid to play both sides of the law, and I, the handsome thief whose passion for grand theft hides nothing but loneliness! Don’t you see that I had to return this painting to you, and to you alone? You may have stolen a Van Gogh painting, but you captured my heart! Who would have believed that all these years we had continued to amuse each other, and that our little game would blossom like so many of Vincent’s sunflowers, delicate and bursting!
Maybe this time I will be more forward and bold. Arthur Cézanne’s “The Card Players” is on display at the Met, on the southwest corner of the second floor. I don’t usually care for Cézanne – too many dusty wines I keep from old masters are for my taste – but I’m sure some Saudi prince or venture capitalist could get involved quite easily. Unless of course you catch me first! I’ll wait in the Bemelmans bar in Carlisle, tuck a tulip into my lapel, and enjoy an absinthe.
See you soon, Arthur!