On August 21, 1911, the world was stunned as news spread about the theft of the most famous painting in history, Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa,” from the Louvre in Paris. The front pages of every newspaper bled the word ‘missing’, alongside a picture of “The Mona Lisa.” Numerous efforts were put in place to ensure they recovered this monumental piece. Here is how “The Mona Lisa” was stolen and recovered.
How did it get to Florence?
After years of searching for the painting, many were curious to know how the painting got to the hotel room it was discovered in. According to sources, Vicenzo Peruggia, an Italian museum worker and artist, entered the museum on Monday, August 21, 1911.
He gained entry through the employee’s door by wearing a white smock, the museum uniform. This disguise made him indistinguishable from the other workers. Then he entered the Salon Carré and stole the painting.
How long was it gone for?
“The Mona Lisa” was stolen from the Louvre in Paris on August 21, 1911, and was returned on December 10, 1913. It is believed that two handymen helped Peruggia; however, the painting’s safety was entrusted to him alone.
While it was missing, the Louvre and the government launched several manhunts and investigations to recover the painting. However, their efforts proved futile until Vicenzo reached out to an Italian dealer.
Where was The Mona Lisa found?
After hiding it in his car’s trunk for two years, Vicenzo got impatient and decided to reach out to Mario Fratelli, the owner of an art gallery in Florence, in the guise of returning the lost painting.
The painting was discovered in Room 20 of the Hotel Tripoli. Many people often wondered why and how the painting got into the room in the first place. According to police reports, Peruggia planned on reaching out to Fratelli to claim the reward for returning the painting.
How was the painting found?
After the two men agreed to meet in Florence, Vincenzo booked a hotel to stay. He met Mario and Giovanni Poggi, the director of the Uffizi Gallery, in his hotel room. He gave the two men the painting there, and they assured him of his reward.
Unknown to Vincenzo, Mario had called the police, leading to his arrest. Vincenzo was arrested and charged to court. During the investigation, they discovered he stole the painting to make a quick fortune.
What happened to the thief and painting afterward?
Vincenzo Peruggia was investigated, found guilty, and sentenced to 14 months of imprisonment. However, he was released from jail after staying for a while and served Italy during World War I.
After retrieving “The Mona Lisa” from Vincenzo in Florence, Italy, the painting was first showcased at the Uffizi Gallery for a week before being sent to the Louvre in Paris for further exhibition in January 1914.