CAIRO (Reuters) - A Van Gogh painting worth an estimated $55 million was stolen from a Cairo museum on Saturday and after reporting it had been recovered, the state news agency quoted a minister as saying it was still missing.
Citing Culture Minister Farouk Hosni, the MENA news agency reported that security had caught a young Italian man with the painting by the Dutch post-Impressionist master at the airport and also had detained an Italian woman with him.
Later the agency, which said the painting was worth an estimated $55 million, issued another statement from the minister saying “measures were continuing to recover the painting,” which according to the Arabic statement was called the “Poppy Flower.”
The minister said information that initially had been given about its recovery was “not accurate and was not confirmed until now by the responsible agencies.” He made similar comments to a state television channel.
It was not immediately clear how the confusion over the painting’s fate arose.
The painting earlier in the day had been taken from Cairo’s Mahmoud Khalil Museum on the banks of the River Nile.
The state news agency MENA had said security had tracked down visitors to the museum and the Italian couple had been suspected after an employee spotted them visiting a bathroom then swiftly leaving.
The museum is home to one of the Middle East’s finest collections of 19th- and 20th-century art and includes works by Gauguin, Monet, Manet and Renoir.
The collection includes works assembled by Mohammed Mahmoud Khalil, a politician who died in 1953.
The culture minister earlier had instructed security forces to take measures to ensure the painting did not leave the country. It was not clear exactly how the painting was stolen.
Additional reporting by Mohamed Abdellah, Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Michael Roddy