The Mona Lisa is one of the world’s most famous artworks. Painted by Italian Renaissance genius, Leonardo Da Vinci, the Mona Lisa has inspired quite a number of theories: her identity is mysterious, her smile led people to believe that there are secret clues hidden in the painting, that she was actually a man, that she was Da Vinci himself, that she was a hermaphrodite, or that she is an indirect clue for finding the mystical holy grail. Among the stories and believes about the painting, we have found one from 1911 which is certainly true:
The Mona Lisa was stolen!
On August 21st 1911, this famous painting had disappeared from its place at the Louvre Museum. The theft was so unthinkable that the painting was only found to be missing the next day. No one would have thought that someone would steal the Mona Lisa. The museum closed for a week, in order to help the investigation.
The evidence was scarce: the glass plate in which the Gioconda was kept was found empty in a staircase, along with the frame, a thumbprint was found, but they could not identify it.
What happened? The theft took place on a Monday, a day in which the Louvre was closed for cleaning. Did this mean it was an inside job? Over 800 people had access to the Salon Carré, and narrowing the suspects pool was a difficult task.
Rumors and theories arose, some blaming the French, some blaming the Germans, some blaming a museum worker. Nothing was conclusive. Seventeen days after the disappearance of the Mona Lisa, the French police arrested Guillame Apollinaire, a French poet. They had no evidence and he was soon released. Days, months and years went by and the Mona Lisa was still not to be found.
It was the autumn of 1913, when the thief made contact with an art dealer he found in a newspaper ads. He said that he had the Mona Lisa and signed the letter with “Leonardo”. The pair set a meeting in Milan. The art dealer notified the police about the meeting. When the day came, he met with the mysterious man who claimed to have the painting, and hidden under a fake bottom of a suitcase, laid the Mona Lisa. The man insisted that he only wanted to return it to Italy. His name was Vincenzo Perrugia, and he had worked for the Louvre. One day he saw that the room was empty, took the painting, went up the staircase to remove its glass and frame and simply walked out through the doors of the museum.
The painting returned to France in December 1913 and still hangs proudly on the walls of the Louvre: now as the most guarded painting in the world!
Do you know other true stories about the Mona Lisa?
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