Little Bits of History

She’s Gone

Posted in History by patriciahysell on September 7, 2013
Guillaume Apollinaire

Guillaume Apollinaire

September 7, 1911: Guillaume Apollinaire is arrested and jailed. The French poet, writer, and art critic was born in Rome to a Polish aristocratic mother (his father may have been a Swiss-Italian aristocrat). He was educated in Monaco and emigrated to France. He once said he thought the Louvre should be burned to the ground. He joined the Montparnasse, an artistic community in Paris. The group was home to Pablo Picasso, Gertrude Stein, and a host of others. He was arrested on this day and released a week later after implicating his friend, Picasso. The crime? Art theft.

Vincencio (Vincenzo) Peruggia was an Italian working at the Louvre. On Sunday, August 20, he hid inside the building after closing. The museum was to be closed the following day. On Monday morning, Peruggia mixed with other artists and blended in by wearing a white smock. He then managed to take a painting from where it hung and removed it from the protective casing and the frame. He hid the artwork under his smock and left the building. The guard station was empty, the guard having left to get a pail of water.

Peruggia hid the painting in a trunk in his apartment. Police came to question him, but believed his alibi and he was free to go. He stayed on in Paris for two years before heading back to Italy. He took an apartment in Florence and again hid the painting. He contacted Alfredo Giri, owner of a Florentine art gallery, and tried to sell the stolen artwork. He may have also been looking for a reward for the return of the picture to Italy, its “rightful” home. Peruggia was arrested; the painting was displayed across Italy and then returned to the Louvre. The Mona Lisa was back.

Leonardo da Vinci painted La Gioconda, an oil on poplar panel. The 30 x 21 inch work is entitled Portrait of Lisa Gherardini, wife of Francesco del Giocondo in the Louvre. Because the painting is on wood panels, the work is affected by humidity. It was removed from the original frame and began to warp with a crack appearing. This has been repaired with two butterfly braces. In 1956 a vandal threw acid on the lower part of the painting and another person threw a rock and chipped some paint. Now in a climate controlled enclosure, the Mona Lisa smiles behind bulletproof glass.

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

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

“To me it was merely a serene and subdued face, and there an end. There might be more in it, but I could not find it. The complexion was bad; in fact, it was not even human; there are no people that color.” – Mark Twain on the Mona Lisa

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

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: Montparnasse stems from Mount Parnassus, in Greek mythology the home of the nine muses. It is an area of Paris and existed both before and after it was an artists’ enclave. In 1910, the penniless intelligentsia along with artistic folks from all fields moved from Montmartre to Montparnasse. The area provided cheap rent and an atmosphere brimming with creativity. The cheap rent didn’t provide the amenities, such as running water. However, outside in the streets and cafes were the legends of the era. The artists already in place welcomed with open arms any other artistic soul coming to the area. They embraced their oddities along with their creative genius and fed off the good will and camaraderie. The beginning of World War I whispered the end of the Montparnasse experience.

Also on this day: Ann and Andy – In 1915, a patent is granted for the making of a rag doll.
Not Soccer – In 1963, the Pro Football Hall of Fame opened.
Get Out – In 1652, the Guo Huaiyi Rebellion began.

One Response

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  1. tkmorin said, on September 7, 2013 at 9:29 am

    Strange behaviour coming from a fellow artist. Thank you for a very enjoyable read! 🙂

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