Little Bits of History

Stolen Smile

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 21, 2011

Vincenzo Peruggia, police photograph

August 21, 1911: The Louvre loses a painting. The Mona Lisa was stolen during the night. Louis Béroud went to visit the masterpiece and found only four iron pegs where the painting should have been in the Salon Carré. Béroud contacted the guards who believed the painting was legitimately missing and was being photographed as part of a marketing campaign. Béroud left and came back a few hours later. The guards had checked and found the painting was in fact, not missing legitimately, but had been stolen. The Louvre was closed for a week to investigate.

Guillaume Apollinaire, a French poet, and Pablo Picasso, a French artist were both questioned by authorities. Apollinaire had once suggested the painting should be burnt. To get suspicion away from himself, he implicated his painter friend. Both were exonerated. The painting was thought to be lost forever. Nothing more was heard about it for two years.

Vincenzo Peruggia, an Italian, had entered the Louvre during regular hours and hidden himself until the museum closed. He hid the painting under his coat and walked out with it. He believed the masterpiece from Leonardo da Vinci should be kept in Italy and so removed it from its French location. Peruggia had a friend who sold copies of the painting and these skyrocketed during the time the original Mona Lisa was missing. Peruggia kept the painting in his apartment for two years before trying to sell it to the directors of the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. The painting was returned to Louvre, but Italians hailed Peruggia as a hero and he served just six months in jail.

During World War II the painting was removed from the Louvre and taken away for safety. After touring during the war, it was returned safe and sound to the Louvre. However, in 1956 the lower portion of the painting was damaged by a vandal dousing it with acid. Later that year, another vandal threw a rock at the painting causing more damage. Today, the painting is displayed behind bulletproof glass. Twice more, attempts have been made to deface the painting, but the new security measures saved the artwork.

Mona Lisa is the only beauty who went through history and retained her reputation.” – Will Rogers

“You cannot paint the Mona Lisa by assigning one dab each to a thousand painters.” – William F. Buckley, Jr.

“Could Hamlet have been written by a committee, or the Mona Lisa painted by a club? Could the New Testament have been composed as a conference report? Creative ideas do not spring from groups. They spring from individuals. The divine spark leaps from the finger of God to the finger of Adam.” – Alfred Whitney Griswold

Mona Lisa looks as if she has just been sick, or is about to be.” – Noel Coward

Also on this day:
USA = 50 States – In 1959, Hawaii is admitted to the United States of America as the 50th state.
The Prophet – In 1931, Nat Turner led a slave rebellion.

One Response

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  1. irreverenteinz said, on August 21, 2011 at 3:15 pm

    Well… they did say they thought the little smile was because she’d just realized she was ‘with child’…. so maybe she had just thrown up, or was about to… hehehehehehehehehe…

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