This past weekend, agents from Agencia Tributaria (the Spanish IRS) searched the safe deposit box of a man under investigation for fraud charges. The agents were not ready for what they found inside the box: a classic masterwork by one of history’s most famous artists.
“Cypress, sky and field” was painted by Vincent Van Gogh in 1889, just a year before he would commit suicide as a penniless man suffering from serious mental illness.
The painting was taken by the Nazis during their occupation of the Netherlands in the 1940s and was last seen on display at Kunsthistorisches Institut der Universität Wien (the University of Vienna’s art institute) in the mid-70s.
The owner of the safe deposit box, who was with the agents when they went through it, claimed that he was just storing the painting for an unidentified Spanish multi-millionaire who had brought it to the country in 2010. Spanish officials are still investigating.
The painting is similar to other landscapes Van Gogh did of the French countryside, which often included its cypress trees and wheat fields: