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A painting by the famous artist Vincent Van Gogh has been stolen from a museum in the Netherlands. The Singer Laren museum had the painting on loan from the Groninger Museum, also in the Netherlands. The Singer Laren museum was displaying the painting as part of an exhibition of over 70 Dutch paintings from the 19th century. It was the sole Van Gogh painting in the exhibition.

The painting, entitled “The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen” is estimated to be worth around 6 million euros, although another painting from Van Gogh’s time in Nuenen recently sold for around 11 million euros. The museum had been closed as part of lockdown restrictions in the Netherlands relating to the current coronavirus. The thieves struck the museum at 3:15am on March 30. They broke the glass front door to the museum and were in and out of the building within minutes. It is believed that the thieves were highly skilled as they were in and out of the museum so quickly. They knew the specific painting that they wanted, its location within the museum and how to get it out of the museum.

Renowned paintings have long been targeted by thieves throughout history. The Mona Lisa, painted by Leonardo Da Vinci and perhaps the most famous painting in the world, was not very well known before it was stolen in 1911. The Mona Lisa was stolen by Vincenzo Peruggia, an employee at the Louvre museum in Paris. Peruggia stole the painting by hiding in a broom closet until the museum closed and then walked out of the museum with the painting under his coat. Peruggia, an Italian man, stole the painting because he believed it belonged in Italy, the birthplace of Leonardo Da Vinci. The Mona Lisa was missing for two years while Peruggia kept the artwork in his apartment. Peruggia was caught when he tried to sell the painting to an art gallery in Florence, Italy. After being displayed at the gallery for two weeks it was then returned to the Louvre.

Weeks after the theft of the Van Gogh painting, its whereabouts are still unknown. In the case of art thefts, it is crucial for paintings to be recovered quickly, otherwise, they are usually lost for a long period of time. Although most paintings are eventually found, this isn’t always the case. In 2017, a $160 million Willem de Kooning painting was discovered in the bedroom of Jerry and Rita Alter. Jerry had died in 2013 and Rita in 2017, the painting was discovered when their nephew was emptying their house of their belongings after Rita’s death. He sold some of the items in the house, including the painting, to some antique dealers. None of them knew what the painting was but the antique dealers later discovered that it was the Willem de Kooning painting that had gone missing in 1972. The Alters had stolen the painting from the University of Arizona Museum of Art. They kept the painting in their bedroom, positioned so that it could only be seen if you were in the bedroom with the door closed.

Hopefully, it doesn’t take 45 years for “The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen” to be reacquired by the museums.

Difficult words

Exhibition (n): A public display of work.

Sole (adj): Only.

Renowned (adj): To be known by many.

Targeted (v): To aim or direct attention to something specific.

Whereabouts (adv): Where something is.

Crucial (adj): Serious or important.

Belongings (n): Things someone owns.

Antique (n): An object having high value because of its age and quality.

Reacquired (v): To obtain again.

Activities

For listening practise, listen to the recorded article here:

British English: Coming Soon!

American English: 

Match the Synonym!

1. Exhibition A. Famous
2. Sole B. Location
3. Renowned C. Owned objects.
4. Targeted D. Only
5. Whereabouts E. Aim
6. Crucial F. Get back.
7. Belongings G. Serious
8. Antique H. Show
9. Reacquired I. Collector’s item.

True or False?

1. A painting has been stolen from a Van Gogh museum in France. T / F

2. The painting was being temporarily loaned to another museum. T / F

3. The painting was one of 70 other Van Gogh paintings in an exhibition. T / F

4. The painting was worth less than 2 million euros.T / F

5. The art piece was stolen during the museum’s open hours. T / F

6. The Mona Lisa was stolen by an Italian man and taken from the Louvre. T / F

7.  A valuable painting was kept in a couple’s house for many decades. T / F

8.   The couple kept the painting in their living room so everyone could admire it. T / F

9. It is preferred to find stolen paintings after a long period of time. T / F

10. The couple stole the painting in 1972. T / F

Unscramble the sentence!

1. was / It / painting / the / in / exhibition / VanGogh / the / sole

2. of / closed / part / been / as / The / lockdown restrictions / museum / had

3. door / They / the / the / broke / museum / to / glass / front

4. been / targeted / paintings / Renowned / thieves / long / have / by

5. hiding / broom / Peruggia / painting / stole / in / closet / the / by / a

Listening and Vocabulary

Listen to the article and fill in the words OR practice vocabulary and fill in the words.

British English: Coming Soon!

American English: 

Restrictions Stolen Thefts
Specific Estimated Birthplace
Emptying Positioned Employee

A painting by the famous artist Vincent Van Gogh has been (1)__________ from a museum in the Netherlands. The Singer Laren museum had the painting on loan from the Groninger Museum, also in the Netherlands. The Singer Laren museum was displaying the painting as part of an exhibition of over 70 Dutch paintings from the 19th century. It was the sole Van Gogh painting in the exhibition.

The painting, entitled “The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen” is (2)_______________ to be worth around 6 million euros, although another painting from Van Gogh’s time in Nuenen recently sold for around 11 million euros. The museum had been closed as part of lockdown (3)______________ in the Netherlands relating to the current coronavirus. The thieves struck the museum at 3:15am on March 30. They broke the glass front door to the museum and were in and out of the building within minutes. It is believed that the thieves were highly skilled as they were in and out of the museum so quickly. They knew the (4)____________ painting that they wanted, its location within the museum and how to get it out of the museum.

Renowned paintings have long been targeted by thieves throughout history. The Mona Lisa, painted by Leonardo Da Vinci and perhaps the most famous painting in the world, was not very well known before it was stolen in 1911. The Mona Lisa was stolen by Vincenzo Peruggia, an (5)_______________ at the Louvre museum in Paris. Peruggia stole the painting by hiding in a broom closet until the museum closed and then walked out of the museum with the painting under his coat. Peruggia, an Italian man, stole the painting because he believed it belonged in Italy, the (6)_______________ of Leonardo Da Vinci. The Mona Lisa was missing for two years while Peruggia kept the artwork in his apartment. Peruggia was caught when he tried to sell the painting to an art gallery in Florence, Italy. After being displayed at the gallery for two weeks it was then returned to the Louvre.

Weeks after the theft of the Van Gogh painting, its whereabouts are still unknown. In the case of art (7)__________, it is crucial for paintings to be recovered quickly, otherwise, they are usually lost for a long period of time. Although most paintings are eventually found, this isn’t always the case. In 2017, a $160 million Willem de Kooning painting was discovered in the bedroom of Jerry and Rita Alter. Jerry had died in 2013 and Rita in 2017, the painting was discovered when their nephew was (8)________________ their house of their belongings after Rita’s death. He sold some of the items in the house, including the painting, to some antique dealers. None of them knew what the painting was but the antique dealers later discovered that it was the Willem de Kooning painting that had gone missing in 1972. The Alters had stolen the painting from the University of Arizona Museum of Art. They kept the painting in their bedroom, (9)______________ so that it could only be seen if you were in the bedroom with the door closed.

Hopefully, it doesn’t take 45 years for “The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen” to be reacquired by the museums.

Conversation Questions

Take turns speaking with a partner or try to answer on your own:

1. Did you find this article interesting? Why or why not?
2. Did you learn anything new from this article? If so, what?
3. What do you think of this story?
4. Do you have a favourite museum?
5. Do you have a favourite painting?
6. Do you have a favourite artist?
7. Are museums popular in your country?
8. Does your country have many famous artists? If so, who?
9. Do you think the Mona Lisa should be the most famous painting in the world?
10. Should the Mona Lisa be returned to Italy?
11. How important is art to human culture?
12. Should museums and art galleries be free to enter?
13. Do you think this Van Gogh painting will be found?
14. What punishment should the thieves receive if they are caught?
15. How can museums better protect their items during the coronavirus lockdown?
16. Is there a museum that you would like to visit in the future?
17. Is there any art that you don’t like?
18. Have there been any art thefts in your country?
19. Do you think paintings are worth the prices they sell for?
20. What famous artist would you most like to meet?