The 1626 canvas by Dutch Golden Age master Frans Hals was swiped during a burglary at the Hofje van Mevrouw van Aerden museum in Leerdam early Wednesday, police said Thursday.
Thieves previously stole the painting, depicting two laughing boys with a mug of beer, from the same museum in 2011 and 1988. It was recovered after six months and three years, respectively.
“Around 3:30 a.m. the alarm went off, and agents went straight to the museum,” police said in a statement, calling for witnesses. “After the museum’s manager could grant access to the area and building, it emerged that the back door had been forced open and one painting had been stolen.”
Authorities called on forensic investigators and art theft experts for an “extensive investigation,” they added.
Dutch art detective Arthur Brand — dubbed the “Indiana Jones of the art world” — tweeted that “the hunt is on” after “this very important and precious painting” was stolen on the 54th anniversary of Hals’ death.
Brand estimated that the painting is worth around $18 million, according to Dutch broadcaster RTL Nieuws.
“Criminals know that major museums have sufficient security,” he told the outlet, adding that smaller regional museums might not. “They probably concluded it’s worth a lot of money, and it’s relatively easy to steal.”
The theft marked the second time a painting was stolen from a Dutch museum closed to the public due to COVID-19.
Back in March, burglars swiped the Vincent van Gogh painting “Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring” from the Singer Laren Museum on what would have been the painter’s 167th birthday.
With Post wires