Frans Hals £13m Dutch masterpiece Two Laughing Boys stolen for third time

A £13 million seminal Dutch painting has been stolen from a museum for the third time.

Two Laughing Boys with a Mug of Beer by Frans Hals was stolen from a small museum in the Dutch town of Leerdam.

Police said thieves broke open the back door at around 3.30am on Wednesday and had made off by the time officers arrived.

The work, painted in 1626, was first stolen in 1988 along with a Jacob van Ruisdael’s Forest View with Flowering Elderberry. Both paintings were recovered three years later.

The same paintings were taken again from the Hofje van Mevrouw van Aerden museum in 2011 but retrieved after six months.

The thieves forced open the back door of the museum (ANP/AFP via Getty Images)

Since that theft, the museum’s most valuable works have been kept away from the public under staff supervision, Dutch media reports. Two Laughing Boys has an estimated value of €15m (£13.4m).

It is the second theft of a painting from a Dutch museum closed to the public because of the COVID-19 pandemic, after the 1884 Van Gogh painting Spring Garden was stolen from the Singer Laren Museum in March.

It has not been recovered.

“Criminals know that major museums have sufficient security” but smaller regional museums less so, art expert Arthur Brand told the Dutch broadcaster RTL Nieuws.

“They probably concluded it’s worth a lot of money, and it’s relatively easy to steal.”

Frans Hals, who died in 1666, has been described as one of the great Old Masters of the Dutch bourgeoisie of the Golden Age.

Police said the investigation to recover the painting would call on forensic specialists and art-theft experts. Officers are also checking CCTV images and have appealed for information from the public.

A spokesman for the museum referred all questions to the police.

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REVEALED: $1.3m plan for dredging of Shaws Bay

IT HAS been on the drawing board for many years, but now it looks like Shaws Bay at Ballina will be dredged in the near future.

Ballina Shire Council, at next Thursday’s ordinary meeting, will assess tenders for the $1.3 million project.

The Shaws Bay Coastal Zone Management Plan was gazetted by the State Government in June 2016, identifies a series of actions to improve the health and amenity of Shaws Bay.

High priority works in that plan included stabilising the water quality and improving amenity.

Now attention has turned to the dredging of the waterway, which is a popular swimming spot.

Detailed studies have shown that dredging of Shaws Bay is required and the council received funding for the project in 2018.

Plans are progressing for dredging works at Shaws Bay at Ballina.

“Council has been successful in obtaining further grant funding to assist with these works from the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (Environment, Energy and Science) under the Coastal and Estuary Grants Program,” the council report states.

“The works included in the tender generally involve the dredging of two main areas in Shaws Bay, with material being processed on site and then used as clean beach sand to stabilise some main access points, including the protection of and creation of new ecological zones for marine vegetation.”

Works will include:

Establishment of a large temporary works and stockpile compound at north-western end of Pop Denison Park

Dredging of two main areas within Shaws Bay

Separation and dewatering of the dredged material, including disposal of screenings, fines and organics

Placement of clean dredged sand at various sites around the Shaws Bay foreshore for erosion control and beach amenity

Removal of mangroves from the eastern beach foreshore

Fill and levelling of a section of Pop Denison Park and restoration of grass cover

Creation of an ecological protection area at the north eastern end of Shaws Bay including creation of a saltmarsh basin, fencing and revegetation

Installation of raised boardwalk to span the new saltmarsh area

Extend two rock groynes constructed in 2018 on the eastern arm of Shaws Bay.

At Thursday’s meeting, councillors will vote on how to progress with the work, after tenders were called last month.

The recommendation from staff is to decline the submitted tenders and enter into further negotiations with the preferred tenderer, Synergy Resource Management Pty Ltd, which may result in some cost saving initiatives.

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