The Mona Lisa is Missing….!

Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa
(ca. 1503-1505)

On August 21, 1911 during intensive repair and renovation work the Louvre Museum realized that Leonardo Da Vinci’s most famous painting, the Mona Lisa, was stolen.

I guess, the Mona Lisa must be the most famous painting in the world. The painting’s title Mona Lisa stems from a description by Giorgio Vasari, who wrote biographies of famous contemporary Renaissance men: “Leonardo undertook to paint, for Francesco del Giocondo, the portrait of Mona Lisa, his wife….“. Published almost 30 years after Leonardo’s death, Vasari’s biography is the first and most authentic provenance information about the painting. The woman portraied in the painting is referred to as Lisa del Giocondo, and was a member of the Gherardini family of Florence and Tuscany and the wife of wealthy Florentine silk merchant Francesco del Giocondo.

Leonardo began painting the Mona Lisa in 1503 or 1504 in Florence, Italy. In 1516 he was invited by King François I to work at the Clos Lucé near the king’s castle in Amboise. It is believed that he took the Mona Lisa with him and continued to work after he moved to France.After his death, the king bought the painting for 4,000 écus and kept it at Palace of Fontainebleau, where it remained until given to Louis XIV, who moved the painting to the Palace of Versailles. After the French Revolution, it was moved to the Louvre, but also spent a brief period in the bedroom of Napoleon in the Tuileries Palace.

The painting’s fame was emphasized when it was stolen on 21 August 1911. The next day, Louis Béroud, a painter, walked into the Louvre and went to the Salon Carré where the Mona Lisa had been on display for five years. However, where the Mona Lisa should have stood, he only found four iron pegs. The Louvre was closed for an entire week to aid in investigation of the theft. But it didn’t help. The Mona Lisa had vanished and the painting was believed to be lost forever, and it was two years before the real thief was discovered.

Louvre employee Vincenzo Peruggia had stolen it by entering the building during regular hours, hiding in a broom closet and walking out with it hidden under his coat after the museum had closed. Peruggia was an Italian patriot who believed Leonardo’s painting should be returned to Italy for display in an Italian museum. Peruggia may have also been motivated by a friend whose copies of the original would significantly rise in value after the painting’s theft. After having kept the Mona Lisa in his apartment for two years, Peruggia grew impatient and was finally caught when he attempted to sell it to the directors of the Uffizi Gallery in Florence; it was exhibited all over Italy and returned to the Louvre in 1913. Peruggia was hailed for his patriotism in Italy and only served six months in jail for the crime.

At yovisto you might study Leonardo’s Mona Lisa in a presentation of Jean Penicaut from Lumière at Google talking about high resolution photographs of classical art.

References and further Reading:

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