THE HAGUE (AFP).-
Dutch police arrested a 58-year-old man Tuesday on suspicion of stealing two paintings by Vincent van Gogh and Frans Hals from museums in the Netherlands last year.
The man was held at his home in the central town of Baarn over the thefts of Van Gogh's "Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring" and Hals's "Two Laughing Boys".
But police said they have not yet found either of the paintings -- the Van Gogh is valued at up to six million euros ($6.6 million).
"For months, intensive investigations into the robbery of both paintings were conducted under the leadership of the public prosecution service," the Dutch police statement said.
"This has led to the arrest of a 58-year-old suspect from Baarn. He was arrested at his home this morning. The man is suspected of stealing the paintings."
The Van Gogh painting was stolen from the Singer Laren Museum near Amsterdam on March 30 while it was closed due to coronavirus measures. The theft happened on what would have been the 19th century painter's 167th birthday.
Dutch art detective Arthur Brand two months later received two "proof of life" photos of the Van Gogh together with a dated front page of the New York Times newspaper.
"Parsonage Garden" comes from relatively early on in Van Gogh's career, before the prolific artist embarked on his trademark post-impressionist paintings such as "Sunflowers" and his vivid self-portraits.
The "Two Laughing Boys" by 17th century Dutch master Hals was meanwhile stolen in a burglary in August from the Hofje van Mevrouw van Aerden museum in Leerdam.
The painting, featuring two laughing boys with a mug of beer, was previously stolen from the same museum in 2011 and 1988, being recovered after six months and three years respectively.
"Both paintings have not yet resurfaced with this arrest. The search continues unabated," the police statement said.
"This arrest is an important step in the investigation. If you have information and have not yet shared it with the police please do this."
Brand -- dubbed the "Indiana Jones of the Art World" for finding a number of lost paintings -- hailed the news of the arrest.
"Another huge success for Dutch Police," Brand tweeted. "The plot thickens..."
Van Gogh's works have been a frequent target of crime.
Two Van Gogh masterpieces went back on display at Amsterdam's Van Gogh Museum two years ago after they were stolen from the museum in 2002.
The paintings -- the 1882 " View of the Sea at Scheveningen" and the 1884/5 "Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church at Nuenen" -- were recovered by Italian investigators in September 2016 when they raided a home belonging to an infamous mafia drug baron near Naples.
Previously, three Van Goghs that were stolen from the Noordbrabants Museum in 1990 later resurfaced when a notorious Dutch criminal made a deal with prosecutors.
Hals meanwhile was a contemporary of fellow masters Rembrandt and Vermeer during the Dutch Golden Age, a flowering of trade, colonialism and art in the Netherlands roughly spanning the 17th century.
He is best known for works including "The Laughing Cavalier", which hangs in the Wallace Collection in London, and "The Gypsy Girl", now housed in the Louvre in Paris.
© Agence France-Presse