The director general of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam has appealed for the return of a stolen Frans Hals painting as he prepares to open a major exhibition devoted to the Dutch master without the “amazing” €15m artwork.
Two Laughing Boys With a Mug of Beer was stolen from the Museum Hofje van Mevrouw van Aerden in the Dutch town of Leerdam in August 2020. Unlike a Van Gogh painting believed to have been taken by the same gang and recovered last year, the Hals appears to have vanished into the criminal world.
Speaking on Tuesday at the launch of an exhibition of Hals’s work, Taco Dibbits said the painting was particularly unusual due to its composition and called for its return.
“That is an amazing painting,” said Dibbits. “Usually he [Hals] paints a group portrait or people on their own and here you see two boys interacting. That is something we would love to show and I really hope this painting will be rediscovered. This is a painting that belongs to us all.”
The show, which opens to the public on Friday, contains 50 works by the 17th-century master of the “loose touch”, laughing faces, red cheeks and empty wine glasses. There is also an extended display in the Frans Hals Museum in nearby Haarlem, where the Antwerp-born artist lived and worked.
While the Rijksmuseum exhibition is based on a recent show at the National Gallery in London that will then travel to Berlin, it also has unique works. The gigantic group portrait Banquet of the Officers of the St George Militia Company in 1616, for instance, has never before been lent out from Haarlem and was only released with special approval from the mayor.
“Frans Hals is one of the greatest painters of the 17th century, one of those painters who really captures laughing people, that fleeting movement, with quick brushstrokes and this enormous energy,” said Dibbits. “Frans Hals invented modern painting.”
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