The “Mona Lisa” Wasn’t Famous Until Someone Tried To Steal It


Art theft really seems to boost an artwork’s street cred, or at least that’s what happened when an Italian immigrant snatched Leonardo da Vinci‘s “Mona Lisa” off its wall in the Louvre, according to the BBC. There are  quite a few books written on the subject of “Mona Lisa”’s theft and everyone seems to agree — the iconic and enigmatic daVinci portrait, one of the most recognizable images in the world, wasn’t all that popular until it disappeared in 1911.

The perpetrator, Vincenzo Peruggia wasn’t exactly a Thomas Crown-caliber thief either, just a handyman who saw an opportunity in the flimsy security system at the now-airtight institution. He was part of a team that hung the painting, so he took advantage of his knowledge of the space, and the Lourve uniform he had worn to do the job, to stroll in when the museum was closed and remove the painting.

Darian Leader, author of “Stealing the Mona Lisa: What Art Stops Us From Seeing,” explains that the sudden news coverage that flooded Paris afterwards helped to contribute to the public’s newfound interest in the mysterious lady. “There she was on newsreels, chocolate boxes, postcards and billboards,” Leader writes. “Her iconic fame was suddenly transformed into the celebrity of film stars and singers.”

Peruggia got off pretty lightly by today’s standards, with a prison sentence of only 1 year and 15 days, reduced to 7 months. The public forgot about him when the First World War began, though “Mona Lisa” has only become more famous since then.

— Meredith Caraher (@Mereditheve)

(Image via Wikimedia Commons.)