“In a thousand years, people will ask of the year 1911: ‘What did you do with the Joconde?’”—Joséphin Péladan, novelist and aficionado of Leonardo da Vinci, writing of the theft of the Mona Lisa from the Louvre, quoted in Simon Kuper, “Who Stole the ‘Mona Lisa’?, Financial Times, August 6, 2011
Today marks the centennial of the most audacious art theft of the 20th century. Kuper’s fine article analyzes the blasé attitude that led security at the Louvre to underestimate the chances that perhaps their most prized possession would be stolen, as well as the unlikely perpetrator of the crime, an Italian who showed no signs of being caught until, for no apparent reason, he turned himself in to the authorities.
(For a more successful bit of detection—albeit one of the historical kind, and one that took centuries to solve—see this earlier post of mine about how art scholars a couple of years ago at last solved the mystery of the woman who sat for this world-famous portrait.)
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