mona lisa fame

Although I have never loved the Mona Lisa as much as I probably should, 
I found this story fascinating nonetheless. 

The right eye of Leonardo da Vinci's "Mona Lisa."  On Aug. 21, 1911, the then-little-known painting was stolen from the wall of the Louvre in Paris. And a legend was born.

Just days before the outbreak of World War I in August 1911, the Mona Lisa was stolen from the Louvre. Before that point in time, it was relatively unknown and unpopular. It took 28 hours before anyone realized it was missing, and became famous overnight. It was a national scandal--no surprise for France. Some suspects included JP Morgan, the German Kaiser Wilhelm (as a result of French and German tensions) and Pablo Picasso. Kafka joined the crowds that mobbed the Louvre after a week-long shutdown just to see this "mark of shame for Parisians."

A New York Times headline from August 24, 1911, reported the investigation into the disappearance of the "Mona Lisa."

It turns out that the thieves were 3 Italians: brothers Vincenzo and Michele Lancelotti, and the ringleader, Vincenzo Perugia, a handyman who worked in the Louvre. They had spent the night in a supply closet, covered the canvas in a blanket and hustled off to the train station. Perugia waited 28 months before he tried to sell it to an art dealer in Florence. The dealer was suspicious, confirmed its authenticity thanks to a stamp on the back, and called the authorities.

Perugia's excuse? That he was a patriot, and was trying to return it to its rightful homeland after Napoleon stole it. Nice try. 

He was sentenced to 8 months in prison. I wonder what would happen to him today. 

Of the more than 35,000 works of art in the Louvre, perhaps none is more popular than the Mona Lisa.

story and photos via the ever-informative {NPR}


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