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August 21 1911 Theft of Mona Lisa is discovered


Vincenzo Perugia

On August 21st 1911, an amateur painter set up his easel near Leonardo da Vinci‘s Mona Lisa at the Louvre in Paris, only to discover that the masterpiece was missing. The day before, in perhaps the most brazen art theft of all time, Vincenzo Perugia had walked into the Louvre, removed the famed painting from the wall, hid it beneath his clothes, and escaped.

While the entire nation of France was stunned, theories abounded as to what could have happened to the invaluable artwork. Most believed that professional thieves could not have been involved because they would have realised that it would be too dangerous to try to sell the world’s most famous painting. A popular rumour in Paris was that the Germans had stolen it to humiliate the French.

Investigators and detectives searched for the painting for more than two years without finding any decent leads. Then, in November 1913, Italian art dealer Alfredo Geri received a letter from a man calling himself Leonardo. It indicated that the Mona Lisa was in Florence and would be returned for a hefty ransom. When Perugia attempted to receive the ransom, he was captured. The painting was unharmed.

Perugia, a former employee of the Louvre, claimed that he had acted out of a patriotic duty to avenge Italy on behalf of Napoleon. But prior robbery convictions and a diary with a list of art collectors led most to think that he had acted solely out of greed.

Perugia served seven months of a one-year sentence and later served in the Italian army during the First World War. The Mona Lisa is back in the Louvre, where improved security measures are now in place to protect it.

This Day In History

About Craig Hill

Teacher and Writer. Writing has been cited in New York Times, BBC, Fox News, Aljazeera, Philippines Star, South China Morning Post, National Interest, news.com.au, Wikipedia and others.

Discussion

3 thoughts on “August 21 1911 Theft of Mona Lisa is discovered

  1. When I went to try and have a look the Mona Lisa, I couldn’t even get within 10 metres of the security rail, owing to the crowds, still less approach the painting…. Fun though. What got me was just how tiny it actually is – there are some way larger artworks all around it. Intriguing to see what captures our imaginations.

    Posted by Matthew Wright | August 21, 2012, 15:07
  2. Mona Lisa .. isn’t anything that I fancy .. I rather look at a Rembrandt or any of the Dutch painter that was so fantastic with every little detail – like photographs. Can’t understand why everybody is so fascinated by Mona Lisa, of course she are painted by Da Vinci … but he has done some much more that is more beautiful and interesting. Thanks for a great post. I think Mona Lisa is a man .. really.

    Posted by viveka | August 22, 2012, 05:05

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  1. Pingback: Jesus and disciples were not present when da Vinci painted “The Last Supper” | Craig Hill - May 13, 2014

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