A painting by Dutch master Vincent van Gogh was stolen from a museum closed in order to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus, police have confirmed.

The burglary from the Singer Laren museum, located 32 kilometres south-east of Amsterdam, occurred on what would have been the painter’s 167th birthday.

The raid triggered the museum’s alarm when a glass door was smashed after 3 am CEST. By the time officers arrived, they had left the premises with van Gogh’s The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring 1884, police said in a statement.

An investigation has been launched involving forensic investigators and art theft experts, police added, calling on nearby residents and shops to provide them with any security footage they may have.

Evert van Os, the museum’s general director, said the institution was “angry, shocked, sad” at the theft.

The painting, whose value was not immediately known, was on loan to the Singer Laren from the Groninger Museum, in the north of the country.

Singer Laren’s director, Jan Rudolph de Lorm, said the theft “is very bad for the Groninger Museum, it is very bad for the Singer, but it is terrible for us all because art exists to be seen and shared by us, the community, to enjoy to draw inspiration from and to draw comfort from, especially in these difficult times.”

The Groninger Museum, for its part, described itself as “shocked” and stressed that “the 1884 work, oil on paper and panel (marouflage) is the only painting by Van Gogh in the Groninger Museum’s collection.”

It is not the first high profile theft from the museum. In 2007, thieves stole seven works from its sculpture garden, including a bronze cast of The Thinker by Auguste Rodin. The famous sculpture was recovered a few days later, missing a leg.