CAIRO – 25 May 2021: The Art News Paper website shed light on the Mohamed Mahmoud Khalil Museum, which has recently been reopened by the Ministry of Culture after 10 years of closure.
The site also pointed out to Van Gogh's Poppy Flowers painting which was stolen from the museum in August 2010.
Van Gogh's stolen Poppy Flowers Painting - ET
The museum was closed in 2010 after its greatest treasure, the Vincent Van Gogh's Poppy Flower painting, was stolen. The thief used a knife to cut the canvas from its frame during the museum’s opening hours. This was the second time the painting was stolen.
The museum’s curator said that the museum had its alarms and cameras turned on at the time (in 2010), but there has been no trace of the Van Gogh painting, valued at tens of millions of dollars.
The painting depicts a vase of yellow flowers with many contrasting poppy flowers on a dark background. It probably dates back to the summer of 1886, a few months after Van Gogh's arrival in Paris.
During his two years in Paris, Van Gogh signed the photo on the bottom left, which likely indicates it was originally gifted to a friend.
The Poppy Flowers painting may be the first painting obtained by Van Gogh for a collector outside Europe and North America. It was bought in Paris by Mohamed Mahmoud Khalil (1877-1953), perhaps as early as the 1920s.
Khalil was married to a French woman named Emiline Lock, and was a regular visitor to Paris, where he used to collect paintings.
The first time the Poppy Flower painting was stolen was in 1978 and it was recovered two years later in mysterious circumstances after it appeared in an Arab country.
In 1994-1995, many of the paintings of the Mohamed Mahmoud Khalil Museum were loaned to the Musée d'Orsay in Paris for an exhibition titled "Les Oubliés du Caire".
Van Gogh’s painting was however excluded from the show - possibly because it had been a victim of a previous robbery. It is yet to be found.
The Mohamed Mahmoud Khalil Museum, located in Giza, contains one of Egypt's largest and finest personal collections of valuable artifacts.
The museum was built in 1915. It was originally a palace belonging to Mohamed Mahmoud Khalil and his wife, Emiline Lock, both patrons of fine art who had a taste for aesthetics.
Four stories tall, the building itself is an artistic wonder. Its eastern side was built to face the River Nile and features elements of the "Art Nouveau" style of architecture. The artwork is apparent in the metal and glass work of the entrance. The western side of the palace features heavy European influence.
Khalil was both an Egyptian politician and a sponsor of art in Egypt's cultural scene, having helped in the foundation of the Society of Fine Arts Lovers alongside Prince Youssef Kamal. Khalil was the society’s chairman from 1942 to 1952.
Before his death in 1953, Khalil left the house to his wife, who in turn bequeathed the house to the Egyptian government upon her death. The house was then converted into a museum and was officially inaugurated on July 23, 1962.
The first, second and ground floors of the palace were transformed into art galleries, and the northern side of the museum features a window painted by French artist Lucien Matte in 1907. It is just one example of the rich European art culture present within the museum's collections. World-renowned artists, such as Vincent Van Gogh and Claude Monet, also have their works featured in the museum.
It is not just European culture that the museum highlights, however. One of its most valuable collections is a collection of small and incredibly rare boxes from Japan, considered to be priceless heirlooms. There are also vases from Iran, Japan and China, along with dishes from Turkey and sculptures by European artists, such as Rodan.