Mona Lisa: The theft that created a legend (2022)

Story highlights

  • The Mona Lisa is the most famous painting in the world. But why?
  • Theft over 100 years ago helped catapult artwork to international stardom
  • Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece now attracts millions of visitors to Louvre

Why is the Mona Lisa the most famous painting in the world?

Her enigmatic smile? The mystery surrounding her identity? The fact she was painted by Renaissance pin-up boy Leonardo da Vinci?

Sure, all of these things helped boost the popularity of the 16th century masterpiece.

But what really catapulted the small, unassuming portrait to international stardom was a daring burglary over 100 years ago.

When Italian handyman Vincenzo Peruggia stole the Mona Lisa from the Louvre in 1911, he never could have guessed her absence would be the very thing that made her the most recognizable painting on the planet.

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Notorious art heists

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Notorious art heists

In 1911, Leonardo Da Vinci's "Mona Lisa" was stolen from the Louvre by an Italian who had been a handyman for the museum. The now-iconic painting was recovered two years later.

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(Video) Mona Lisa: The theft that created a legend

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Notorious art heists

A statue called "Young Girl With Serpent" by Auguste Rodin was stolen from a home in Beverly Hills, California, in 1991. It was returned after someone offered it on consignment to Christie's auction house. Rodin, a French sculptor considered by some aficionados to have been the father of modern sculpture, lived from 1840 until 1917. His most famous work, "The Thinker," shows a seated man with his chin on his hand.

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Notorious art heists

Picasso's "La Coiffeuse" ("The Hairdresser") was discovered missing in 2001 and was recovered when it was shipped from Belgium to the United States in December 2014. The shipper had listed the item as a $37 piece of art being sent to the United States as a Christmas present.

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Italy's Culture Ministry unveils two paintings by the French artists Paul Gauguin and Pierre Bonnard on April 2, 2014. The paintings were stolen from a family house in London in 1970, abandoned on a train and then later sold at a lost-property auction, where a factory worker paid 45,000 Italian lira for them -- roughly equivalent to 22 euros ($30) at the time.

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Notorious art heists

A 19th-century Renoir painting was stolen from a US museum in 1951 and then bought at a flea market in 2010. A judge later ruled that it to be returned to the museum. The 5½-by-9-inch painting, titled "Landscape on the Banks of the Seine," was bought for $7 at a flea market by a Virginia woman.

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(Video) The Mastermind behind the theft of The Mona Lisa | Eduardo Valfierno

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Notorious art heists

Seven famous paintings were stolen from the Kunsthal Museum in Rotterdam, Netherlands, in 2012, including two Claude Monet works, "Charing Cross Bridge, London" and "Waterloo Bridge." The other paintings, in oil and watercolor, were Picasso's "Harlequin Head," Henri Matisse's "Reading Girl in White and Yellow," Lucian Freud's "Woman with Eyes Closed," Paul Gauguin's "Femme devant une fenêtre ouverte, dite la Fiancee" and Meyer de Haan's "Autoportrait."

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Mona Lisa: The theft that created a legend (10)

Notorious art heists

A Salvador Dali painting stolen from a Manhattan art gallery by a man posing as a potential customer in 2012. It was later intercepted by customs police after it was sent back to the United States from Greece.

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Notorious art heists

In 1473, Hans Memling's "The Last Judgment" was stolen by pirates and became the first documented art theft.

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Mona Lisa: The theft that created a legend (12)

Notorious art heists

Adam Worth, the inspiration for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's diabolical character Moriarty, stole "Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire," painted by Thomas Gainsborough in 1876.

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The Nazis plundered countless precious artworks during World War II, including "Adele Bloch-Bauer I," by Austrian artist Gustav Klimt, which was confiscated from the owner as he fled Austria.

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Mona Lisa: The theft that created a legend (14)

Notorious art heists

Many works of art that were taken by the Nazis were never recovered. Others were returned after years of legal battles. "Christ Carrying the Cross," by Italian artist Girolamo de' Romani, was returned to its owner's family in 2012.

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Notorious art heists

A version of Edvard Munch's "The Scream" was one of two paintings by the artist to be stolen from the Munch Museum in Oslo, Norway, in 2004.

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Mona Lisa: The theft that created a legend (30)

Mona Lisa: The theft that created a legend (31)

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(Video) Stealing the Mona Lisa

FAQs

Mona Lisa: The theft that created a legend? ›

But what really catapulted the small, unassuming portrait to international stardom was a daring burglary over 100 years ago. In 1911, Leonardo Da Vinci's "Mona Lisa" was stolen from the Louvre by an Italian who had been a handyman for the museum. The now-iconic painting was recovered two years later.

What is the story behind the Mona Lisa? ›

The title of the painting, which is known in English as Mona Lisa, is based on the presumption that it depicts Lisa del Giocondo, although her likeness is uncertain. Renaissance art historian Giorgio Vasari wrote that "Leonardo undertook to paint, for Francesco del Giocondo, the portrait of Mona Lisa, his wife."

Why did they steal the Mona Lisa? ›

Peruggia said he did it for a patriotic reason: he wanted to bring the painting back for display in Italy "after it was stolen by Napoleon" (when Peruggia worked at the Louvre, he learned of how Napoleon plundered many Italian works of art during the Napoleonic Wars).

Who Stole the Mona Lisa and why? ›

VINCENZO PERUGGIA STOLE THE MONA LISA

Two years after the notorious gank of the Mona Lisa, the thief was caught trying to sell the priceless painting to an art dealer in Florence, Italy. Peruggia was a handyman and a former employee of the Louvre.

Why is the Mona Lisa so legendary? ›

The Mona Lisa's fame is the result of many chance circumstances combined with the painting's inherent appeal. There is no doubt that the Mona Lisa is a very good painting. It was highly regarded even as Leonardo worked on it, and his contemporaries copied the then novel three-quarter pose.

Why does Mona Lisa not smile? ›

It is believed, however, that the Mona Lisa does not smile; she wears an expression common to people who have lost their front teeth. A closeup of the lip area shows a scar that is not unlike that left by the application of blunt force.

How many times was the Mona Lisa stolen? ›

To look back on this unusual art-historical lineage, ARTnews has charted below five times in which the Mona Lisa was vandalized or stolen.

What are 5 facts about the Mona Lisa? ›

8 Intriguing Facts About the Mona Lisa
  • It may be unfinished. ...
  • It was once believed to be a self-portrait. ...
  • It once hung in Napoleon's bedroom. ...
  • It was stolen in 1911. ...
  • Pablo Picasso was one of the suspects in the theft. ...
  • It has been attacked multiple times. ...
  • It came to America at the request of Jackie Kennedy.
Oct 4, 2021

What is the punishment for stealing the Mona Lisa? ›

And so, with much fanfare, the painting was returned to the Louvre. Perugia pleaded guilty to stealing it, and was sentenced to just eight months in prison. But a few days after his trial, Dorothy Hoobler says, World War I broke out. Suddenly, the drama of an art heist was off the front pages.

Is the Mona Lisa ruined? ›

Since her creation around 1507, there have been multiple attempts to ruin the famous painting, per the Smithsonian. According to the Louvre website, the Mona Lisa was stolen by a museum employee in 1911 and remained missing for more than two years before being recovered.

How was the Mona Lisa recovered? ›

On the morning of August 21, 1911, a museum employee noticed it was missing. Museum officials immediately launched an investigation and shut down for a whole week. Over two years later, it was recovered from Vincenzo Peruggia's hotel room in Florence, Italy.

Why is the Mona Lisa smiling? ›

Giorgio Vasari, Leonardo's biographer, wrote that while Leonardo painted, he employed singers and musicians to keep Madam Lisa amused, so her face would not show the melancholy painters often give to portraits: "And in this portrait, there is so pleasing an expression, and a smile so sweet, that while looking at it one ...

How much would Mona Lisa sell for? ›

On permanent display at the Louvre in Paris, the Mona Lisa was assessed at US$100 million on December 14, 1962. Taking inflation into account, the 1962 value would be around US$900 million in 2021.

What does Mona Lisa's smile mean? ›

How did the great painter capture such a mysterious expression and why haven't other artists copied it? The Italians have a word to explain Mona Lisa's smile: sfumato. It means blurry, ambiguous and up to the imagination.

Is the Mona Lisa smiling? ›

In her modest realness, the Mona Lisa is a colossus – not only the face of Renaissance humanism, but a new standard for art as much an intellectual exercise as an aesthetic one. Those are the mundane truths. The Mona Lisa smiles because she was painted smiling.

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Without a brazen theft, or if perhaps the thief had chosen a different Leonardo da Vinci painting, the world might have a different image in mind when it comes to the "most famous painting in existence.". While it would be easy to say that the passage of time helps with the historical appreciation of "masterpieces," perhaps it's what occurred during the two years while the Mona Lisa was stolen that led to its artistic distinction.. As the Louvre notes, "Among the aspects which remain unclear are the exact identity of the sitter, who commissioned the portrait, how long Leonardo (da Vinci) worked on the painting, how long he kept it, and how it came to be in the French royal collection.". The Louvre continues, "The portrait may have been painted to mark one of two events - either when Francesco del Giocondo and his wife (Lisa Gherardini) bought their own house in 1503, or when their second son, Andrea, was born in December 1502 after the death of a daughter in 1499.". Whether it was the fatigue associated with alcohol, or the fact that the Mona Lisa was not yet the MONA LISA at this time, it took 28 hours for anyone to notice the empty hooks where da Vinci's painting had hung.. "If a different one of Leonardo's works had been stolen, then that would have been the most famous work in the world -- not the Mona Lisa ," Noah Charney, professor of art history and author of The Thefts of the Mona Lisa told CNN .. The New York Times ran a headline proclaiming, "60 Detectives Seek Stolen 'Mona Lisa' - signifying that a once unknown painting was now practically a countrywide manhunt.. As The Daily Beastnoted , "At 7 o’clock, on the morning of September 8th, nineteen days after the Mona Lisa was stolen, the police ordered Pablo Picasso to appear before the magistrate as a lead suspect in the theft of highly valuable pieces of art from the Louvre.. The Daily Beast further asserted, "So inspired was Picasso, that he used the faces of the sculptures in the formation of the first of his many masterpieces, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907), a painting many saw as the exact antithesis of the Mona Lisa."

However, we now remember him, most famously, as the man who painted the masterpiece – ‘The Mona Lisa’ .. Leonardo Da Vinci started painting the Mona Lisa around 1503 AD or around 1517 AD , for the Italian nobleman Francesco del Giocondo.. This was the portrait of his wife Lisa del Giocondo, who was commonly referred to as “Mona Lisa”, the English translation of which is ‘Madam Lisa’.. The Mona Lisa in the Louvre, behind a protective case. The three men who had stolen the Mona Lisa, had just spent the entire night in an art closet, waiting for the Louvre to close, so that they could slip out unnoticed, with the painting in their hands.. Before, the painting was stolen, the Mona Lisa wasn’t even the most famous painting in the Louvre, let alone the world.. There was a still-life artist who had set up his easel in that particular gallery of the Louvre, where the Mona Lisa was originally hung, to paint it.. It is said that the Mona Lisa was his favourite painting in the Louvre, and so he refused to paint until the painting was back.. The Mona Lisa is gone!” And just like that, the Mona Lisa became a legend and a world-famous beauty, overnight.. There was a stamp at the back of the painting that confirmed the fact that it was the original Mona Lisa of the Louvre.. Finally , the Mona Lisa had been found and was back at the Louvre.. Perugia served just 8 months in prison, partly because the First World War had broken out by then, and the theft of the Mona Lisa wasn’t as big a concern anymore.. I guess it is safe to say that the Mona Lisa became a world-renowned masterpiece, literally overnight , when on the quiet morning of the 21 st of August 1911, it was stolen by 3 ordinary Italian gentlemen.

However, we now remember him, most famously, as the man who painted the masterpiece – ‘The Mona Lisa’ .. It was the morning of August 21 1911 when the Mona Lisa became known to the entire world.. Leonardo Da Vinci started painting the Mona Lisa around 1503 AD or around 1517 AD , for the Italian nobleman Francesco del Giocondo.. This was the portrait of his wife Lisa del Giocondo, who was commonly referred to as “Mona Lisa”, the English translation of which is ‘Madam Lisa’.. The Mona Lisa in the Louvre, behind a protective case. The three men who had stolen the Mona Lisa, had just spent the entire night in an art closet, waiting for the Louvre to close, so that they could slip out unnoticed, with the painting in their hands.. Before, the painting was stolen, the Mona Lisa wasn’t even the most famous painting in the Louvre, let alone the world.. There was a still-life artist who had set up his easel in that particular gallery of the Louvre, where the Mona Lisa was originally hung, to paint it.. It is said that the Mona Lisa was his favourite painting in the Louvre, and so he refused to paint until the painting was back.. The Mona Lisa is gone!” And just like that, the Mona Lisa became a legend and a world-famous beauty, overnight.. There was a stamp at the back of the painting that confirmed the fact that it was the original Mona Lisa of the Louvre.. Finally , the Mona Lisa had been found and was back at the Louvre.. Perugia served just 8 months in prison, partly because the First World War had broken out by then, and the theft of the Mona Lisa wasn’t as big a concern anymore.

Who are the Louvre's copyists and why do they do it?. Since 1700s, artists have copied the gallery's masterpieces Famous copyists included Pablo Picasso and Paul Cezanne Today, just 150 copyists allowed, one year waiting list. Sigrid Avrillier might be a 65-year-old woman living in Paris, but for four hours each day she is transformed into the legendary Renaissance painter, Peter Paul Rubens.. Avrillier is a copyist.. The copyists are recreating some of the most famous paintings in the world, in a remarkable tradition dating back to when the museum first opened in 1793.. He wasn't alone.. "That bastard," Picasso reportedly said of Delacroix.. "You spend so much time in front of this painting, that little by little you understand what's in it -- how he did it, the people in it, the historical context," explained Avrillier, who has completed five paintings from the Louvre, over four years.. "The children, they can't believe it," said Avrillier, who sometimes gives the youngsters a paint brush of their own.. "If you go into a museum and see paintings on the wall, you think you will never be able to do it.. But the Louvre isn't just a giant studio for these artists -- it's also a potential meeting place for single copyists.

On August 21, 1911, the famous Leonardo da Vinci painting the Mona Lisa was stolen from the Louvre museum in Paris by a petty thief named Vincenzo Perugia (sometimes spelled Peruggia), who had previously worked in the museum.. The theft of the Mona Lisa caused a worldwide search that would be concluded more than two years later when the priceless painting was found in Perugia’s possession.. Mug shot of Vincenzo Perugia, thief of the Mona Lisa in 1911. Credit: Wikimedia Commons, public domain.. He then removed the painting from its frame and, as he later claimed, walked out with the painting under his smock.. The Mona Lisa’s vacant place in the Louvre Museum, after having been stolen in 1911. Credit: Wikimedia Commons, public domain. Although a native of Dumenza, Italy, Perugia was living in Paris at the time of the theft of the Mona Lisa.. Perugia would later claim that he solely wanted to return the painting to its rightful country of origin.. We may never know the true motivations for Perugia’s theft of the Mona Lisa.

Before its theft, the "Mona Lisa" was not widely known outside the art world.. "The 'Mona Lisa' wasn't even the most famous painting in its gallery, let alone in the Louvre," Zug says.. "He felt he couldn't work as long as the 'Mona Lisa' wasn't there," Tom Hoobler says.. "He went off and came back, and said, 'You know what, the photographers say they don't have it!'. Of the more than 35,000 works of art in the Louvre, perhaps none is more popular than the Mona Lisa.. Of the more than 35,000 works of art in the Louvre, perhaps none is more popular than the Mona Lisa.. KIKE CALVO/AP. Twenty-eight months after he snatched it from the Louvre, Perugia finally made a pass at selling the "Mona Lisa" to an art dealer in Florence.

I’ve written about the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci before but what made this painting so famous?. Mona Lisa I’ve already written a bunch about this painting, remember the second and third Mona Lisas ?. By the 1860s some French intellectuals began to hail Mona Lisa as a masterwork of Renaissance painting.. The Theft By 1911, still, the average person likely had never heard of the Mona Lisa and where she hung in the Louvre she wasn’t even the most well-known painting in her gallery, let alone the whole museum.. He set up his easel in Mona Lisa’s usual gallery and started looking around at all the paintings as he sets up.. He wasn’t too worried because there was a project going on to photograph the museum’s works but since cameras in 1911 didn’t work well inside the paintings were being taken up to the roof to be shot.. The thief tried to sell the painting to an art dealer in Florence, I guess he was hoping that things had cooled off a little and people had forgotten about it, plus he had taken the painting outside of France and maybe he thought that would work in his favour as well.. A stamp on the back of Mona Lisa’s canvas confirmed the piece’s authenticity and the Florentine art dealer finally gave the police the thief’s name; Vincenzo Perugia.. Perugia returned home after selling the painting to the art dealer, probably feeling relieved to have it off his hands, but half an hour later the police showed up to arrest him, sucks to suck.. Upon finding the painting safe and sound, the Mona Lisa was displayed at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence for a few weeks, before being carefully returned to the Louvre on January 4, 1914.. Mona Lisa back on display in the Louvre in 1929. What’s interesting is that many art historians and writers believe that had another da Vinci painting (or any other painting in the museum for that matter) been stolen that night on August 21, 1911, it would be the most famous painting in the world and Mona Lisa would likely be largely still unknown outside artist circles.

On the evening of Sunday, August 20, 1911, a small, mustachioed man entered the Louvre museum in Paris and made his way to the Salon Carré, where the Da Vinci painting was housed alongside several other masterworks.. For more than a day, the Louvre’s staff had no clue that the Mona Lisa had been stolen.. Vincenzo Peruggia, the man who stole the Mona Lisa.. Peruggia kept the Mona Lisa hidden for two years while he waited for the heat to die down.. After a brief tour through Da Vinci’s homeland, the Mona Lisa was finally returned to the Louvre in January 1914.. While Peruggia was eventually forgotten, his daring heist only made the Mona Lisa more famous.. “The Mona Lisa had left the Louvre a work of art,” author Dianne Hales later wrote.

On August 21, 1911, Leonardo da Vinci 's Mona Lisa , today one of the most famous paintings in the world, was stolen right off the wall of the Louvre.. The Louvre was closed for an entire week to aid the investigation.. About an hour after the 60 investigators began searching the Louvre, they found the controversial plate of glass and Mona Lisa's frame lying in a staircase.. Besides believing that the thief had to have at least some internal knowledge of the museum, there really wasn't much evidence.. Upon his leaving, Geri contacted the police and the Uffizi.. This was obviously the real Mona Lisa .. Stolen: How the Mona Lisa Became the World’s Most Famous Painting ."

Twenty-six hours would pass before anyone noticed that the Mona Lisa had gone missing.. The theft changed how the world saw the Mona Lisa.. The heist was discovered when a wealthy museum patron and amateur painter arrived at the Salon Carré to study “La Joconde,” as the French call the Mona Lisa.. Instead, he found a blank wall space.. The Louvre routinely removed art work for photographing so a guard thought nothing of the missing work.. Instead, he fingerprinted the 257 Louvre employees who had been working that day.. Police distributed 6,500 leaflets with the painting’s image and offered a 40,000 francs reward.. Because he was part of the glass crew that had worked at the Louvre, the police had interviewed Peruggia in his Paris apartment in 1911.. They believed his alibi that he had been working at a different location the day of the theft.. Mistakenly believing the painting had been taken by Napoleon during his looting of Italian art, Peruggia expected a reward for returning the painting to what he regarded as its homeland.. (The painting had resided in France since 1516 when da Vinci gifted the work to his Gallic patron, King Francois I.). Poggi authenticated the painting and persuaded Peruggia to leave it for “safekeeping.” Then they contacted the Italian police.. “A typical art thief tries to get money.. Visitors take pictures in front of the Mona Lisa at the Louvre Museum in Paris.

The "Mona Lisa" is a painting of status and nothing more.. As the above video shows, there is a logical case for just how Mona became ... Mona.. That book had a breakout hit: Pater’s essay on the "Mona Lisa," which is a gloriously overblown ode to the painting.. But while Pater’s essay established "Mona Lisa" as a notable work in the art world, she didn’t immediately become the iconic, memeable, inescapable icon we know today.. In 1907, a vandal targeted a picture by Ingres , not the "Mona Lisa," and in 1910 another article called her just the Louvre’s second most famous painting .. But the surface story is simple: Former Louvre employee Peruggia wanted to restore the "Mona Lisa" to her native Italy.. People couldn’t necessarily see the "Mona Lisa" while it was hiding in Peruggia’s apartment, but they could easily read about how it was the greatest painting ever made.. Thanks to Pater’s prolix, but beloved, essay, an art thief with a daring plan, and a media happy to publicize Mona’s unexpected journey, da Vinci’s portrait became something bigger than a piece of art — it became Art itself for a great number of people.. This case for the "Mona Lisa’s" ubiquity as a result of overblown criticism, headline-happy newspapers, and theft is one that seems to ignore the virtues of the painting.

De waarde van de Mona Lisa, ook wel bekend als La Gioconda, is puur theoretisch.. Hij was ingehuurd om te helpen bij het maken van vitrines om enkele schilderijen te beschermen, waaronder de Mona Lisa.. Hij ging terug naar zijn schuilplaats totdat het Louvre openging en liep toen kalm naar buiten met de Mona Lisa onder zijn kiel.. "Er was niets dat het op zich echt onderscheidde, behalve dat het een heel goed werk was van een zeer beroemde kunstenaar", zei hij, "totdat het werd gestolen.". Hij zat wat te drinken in een bar toen hij een kennis tegenkwam die bekend staat als Eduardo (het zou leuk zijn om de locatie te melden als Rick's Café, maar dat was fictie).. Karl Decker hield zijn woord over het sappigste verhaal dat hij ooit was tegengekomen tot 1932.. Ze konden niet toegeven dat zulke geldspinners als de Mona Lisa kopieën waren, dus verzonnen ze plausibele verhalen over hun herstel.. Een suggestie is dat Da Vinci het schilderij nooit echt heeft afgemaakt, terwijl een andere suggestie is dat het verwijderen van wenkbrauwen in die tijd in de mode was.. "De Mona Lisa is gestolen uit het Louvre."

It can be assumed that whenever you think about paintings as a form of art, one certain figure appears in your head.. Moreover, rather than getting it done over several sessions, Da Vinci has been carrying Mona Lisa throughout his life and has worked on it until his death in 1519.. The identity of the Mona Lisa has been a mystery that bothered a lot of individuals ranging from the people in the 19th century to the recent media outlets.. The Mona Lisa's origin has become something of an urban legend with many conspiracy theories ranging from her being a secret lover of Da Vinci to her being a vampire that is reincarnated (hopefully in a metaphorical way).. Consequently, the whole mystery around the mysterious seductress (as she has been named from some) behind the inspiration of Mona Lisa, has boosted the popularity of the painting to new heights.. While a number of art snobs today will claim that the Mona Lisa is just a simple portrait just like any other (Lady with an Ermine, Portrait of a Young Girl etc.. Furthermore, the brushing techniques used by Leonardo gave Mona Lisa a smile that was confusing viewers all around since her smile always seemed to change depending on the position of the viewer.. This patriotic motivation led to him getting in the Louvre on Sunday and hiding in a closet until Monday (which was the day it used to be closed due to cleaning).. The media went crazy.. Conspiracy theories were created, estimations were formed and generally a media chaos ensued.. People used to go to see the empty position of where the Mona Lisa used to be.. After two years, the Mona Lisa was acquired back from the Louvre, when Peruggio tried to sell the painting.

Videos

1. The Mona Lisa Has Been Stolen Il Ladro della Gioconda - Full Movie english sub by Film&Clips
(Film&Clips)
2. S1E1: Smile! The Mona Lisa Theft
(The Group Chat)
3. 298-The Theft of the Mona Lisa
(Futility Closet)
4. RiceGum - Its EveryNight Sis feat. Alissa Violet (Official Music Video)
(RiceGum)
5. THEFT OF THE MONA LISA - DOCUMENTARY 2016 BEST
(Юлиана Дорофеева)
6. Meet the Man Who Stole $1.4 Billion With a Screwdriver
(Thoughty2)

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