Behold "Two Laughing Boys with a Mug of Beer", a 1626 painting by Frans Hals. Last August it was stolen from a museum in the Netherlands — and this is the third time the painting has been stolen since 1988.
Over at the New York Times, Graham Bowley asks the question: Why the heck do thieves love this painting so much?
"It's really that painting for some reason, and I don't know why," said Christa Hendriksen, an alderman responsible for culture in Leerdam, a town of 20,000 best known for its glassworking. "I don't have an answer for that."
It is indeed surprising, even mysterious, when any work of art is stolen multiple times. Does its brushwork contain some clue to hidden treasure, or a secret code? Could it be coveted by some cult that worships Hals, or perhaps beer? [snip]
But experts say that, while some may entertain the notion of thieves stealing on commission for burghers fascinated by the Dutch Golden Age, the motivations for such thefts are likely more pedestrian.
The works are typically known commodities. Safe bets. Paintings whose value was established by prior thefts and by the fact that the police had tried so hard to find them. In other words, "Two Laughing Boys" may have been stolen again simply because it had been stolen before.
There's a lot more in the piece — Nazis, ransoms, the gnarly machinations of the art market, and some Ocean's-11-style heist details. It also turns out there's a whole class of paintings that have been serially stolen throughout history.
(Public-domain image of the painting courtesy Wikipedia)