22 Aug 2010

Stolen Van Gogh painting still missing

2:45 pm on 22 August 2010

A Van Gogh painting worth $US50 million stolen from a Cairo museum is still missing, Egypt's culture minister says.

Earlier Farouk Hosni had said two Italians had been arrested at Cairo airport, and the small canvas found.

But the BBC reports that he later said he had been given "inaccurate" information by an official, and the painting was still missing.

Mr Hosni said earlier, the painting - known as both Poppy Flowers and Vase And Flowers - was "cut from its frame" at the Mahmoud Khalil Museum on Saturday.

Two Italians had been arrested at Cairo airport later in the day, after earlier visiting the museum.

It is not clear whether the pair are still under arrest.

Mr Hosni said that only 10 people had visited the Mahmoud Khalil Museum on Saturday.

The same painting was previously taken from the same museum in 1978, but recovered a decade later in Kuwait.

Police questioned museum staff and security was tightened at air and sea ports across Egypt in the wake of the theft.

The work, measuring 30cm by 30cm, and depicting yellow and red flowers, is believed to have been painted by Vincent Van Gogh in 1887, three years before his death from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

The Mahmoud Khalil museum was built by Egyptian politician of the same name in the 1930s, and also holds works by Monet, Renoir and Degas.