The Egyptian state news agency said an Italian was arrested for stealing a $50 million Van Gogh painting, but issued contradicting statements over the fate of the valuable painting. Authorities confirmed that they arrested one man after he and a woman were stopped before boarding a plane out of the country.

The official Middle East Mews Agency (MENA) initially said the “Poppy Flowers” painting, also known as "Vase with Flowers,” had been recovered after having mysteriously disappeared from the Mohammed Mahmoud Khalil Museum in Cairo. MENA then retracted its report, saying that news of the recovery was based on unconfirmed information, but it offered no explanation forr the confusion or about where the painting may be hidden.

The theft of the painting drew museum security authorities into a search that led them to an Italian couple after an employee noted that they hurriedly left a bathroom, and police then tracked them down at the Cairo airport.

The valuable painting was first stolen in 1978 and found two years later in Kuwait, raising speculation that it has been copied. The thieves never were publicly identified or tried. 

The large canvas, measuring 12 inches by 12 inches (30 centimeters by 30 centimeters) represents a turning point in the panting style of Van Gogh, who committed suicide in 1890 at the age of 37.

The Cairo museum also includes works of Renoir, Rodin and other French artists. 

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