LOUVRE MUSEUM, Mona Lisa Robbery

Audio File length: 2.48
English / USA Language: English / USA

You may not know, but the Mona Lisa was the object of one of the most sensational robberies in history. A maintenance worker for the Louvre, the Italian Vincenzo Peruggia, detached the painting from the wall in the night between August 20th and 21st, 1911. Taking advantage of his great knowledge of the museum, while works were underway to put the painting under protective glass, he simply removed the panel from the wall and quietly left the museum while hiding it under his overcoat. So he brought her home, first to Paris and then to his house in Luino, on the coast of Maggiore Lake. While the director of the Louvre was forced to resign, the theft made the painting unbelievably famous. He initially hoped it would take little time to find the painting, and left the empty frame exposed on the Louvre's wall. Then the Louvre's management decided to put the Portrait of Baldassar Castiglione by Raphael in its place. In the meantime the investigations didn't result in any leads: several people were interrogated and arrested, including the poet Guillaume Apollinaire and Pablo Picasso, who had nothing to do with the theft.

The thief had been motivated by patriotic feelings: he simply wanted to bring a masterpiece "back to Italy" that he thought had unfairly wound up in Paris. But of the impressive amount of masterpieces that had become the booty of Napoleon's military campaigns, the Italian had chosen the wrong one, for it was Leonardo himself that had brought Mona Lisa to France, where the painting was probably purchased by King Francis I!

For more than two years, there was not a single trace of the Mona Lisa. It was Peruggia himself, after having kept the picture hanging in his kitchen, who allowed it to be found by contacting an art merchant in a clumsy attempt to sell it. The Mona Lisa was recovered in Florence, and after a triumphant tour of Italy returned to her place in the Louvre, with the entire French government lined up to welcome her.

The Mona Lisa moved two more times during the World Wars when the museum was prudently evacuated. The last time she left the Louvre was in 1974 for an exhibition in Japan.


FUN FACT: the Mona Lisa is probably also the most imitated picture in the world, also by great 20th century artists: Marcel Duchamps gave her a mustache, Andy Warhol quadrupled her as a poster, Botero made her fat, and Banksy painted her as a guerrilla fighter with a rocket launcher on her shoulders!


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