November 19, 2014

Vincenzo Peruggia: The Man Who Stole The Mona Lisa And Made Her more Famous Than Ever


Vincenzo Peruggia saw himself as an Italian patriot who committed a daring theft  mainly because his knowledge of history was somewhat lacking.

He was convinced that Napoleon had stolen the Mona Lisa from Florence and he was determined to take it back to where he thought it belonged.

This was incorrect. It had been legitimately bought by the French King François I.
Leonardo Da Vinci had been to France.


According to Wiki - which I use with care:

"The Mona Lisa (Monna Lisa or La Gioconda in Italian; La Joconde in French) is a half-length portrait of a woman by Leonardo da Vinci, which has been acclaimed as "the best known, the most visited, the most written about, the most sung about, the most parodied work of art in the world".
The painting, thought to be a portrait of Lisa Gherardini, the wife of Francesco del Giocondo, is in oil on a white Lombardy poplar panel, and is believed to have been painted between 1503 and 1506, although Leonardo may have continued working on it as late as 1517. It was acquired by King Francis I of France and is now the property of the French Republic, on permanent display at The Louvre museum in Paris since 1797.
The ambiguity of the subject's expression, which is frequently described as enigmatic, the monumentality of the composition, the subtle modeling of forms and the atmospheric illusionism were novel qualities that have contributed to the continuing fascination and study of the work.
Leonardo da Vinci began painting the Mona Lisa in 1503 or 1504 in Florence, Italy. Although the Louvre states that it was "doubtless painted between 1503 and 1506", the art historian Martin Kemp says there is some difficulty in confirming the actual dates with certainty. According to Leonardo's contemporary, Giorgio Vasari, "after he had lingered over it four years, [he] left it unfinished". Leonardo, later in his life, is said to have regretted "never having completed a single work".
In 1516 Leonardo 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. Art historian Carmen C. Bambach has concluded that da Vinci probably continued refining the work until 1516 or 1517.
On his death the painting was inherited, among other works, by his pupil and assistant Salaì. The king bought the painting for 4,000 écus and kept it at Palace of Fontainebleau, where it remained until Louis XIV moved the painting to the Palace of Versailles. After the French Revolution, it was moved to the Louvre, but spent a brief period in the bedroom of Napoleon in the Tuileries Palace.
During the Franco-Prussian War (1870–1871) it was moved from the Louvre to the Brest Arsenal.During World War II, the painting was again removed from the Louvre and taken safely, first to Château d'Amboise, then to the Loc-Dieu Abbey and Château de Chambord, then finally to the Ingres Museum in Montauban.

There is usually a huge problem associated which such heists: now what do I do with it?
Vincenzo Peruggia stored the painting in his Paris apartment for over 2 years! He finally decided to contact an art dealer and his associate from the Ufizzi Gallery.
In that time the Mona Lisa became the talk of the day all over the world. 
This went on for ages. If anyone hadn't heard of this painting at the time they certainly knew about it now.
La Gioconda got as much press coverage, probably even more, than any of today's celebrities or politicians. 
It is one of the reasons it it now the world's best known painting. 
Many speculated as to who could have committed this crime. No one came close. 
After all that time he finally decided to contact an Italian art dealer and his associate from the Ufizzi Gallery.

Ultimately this lead to his capture.

More from Think Big - an excerpt with many thanks.

"He made more money as a handyman than as an artist, but Vincenzo Peruggia’s personally responsible for making the Mona Lisa what it is today. Leonardo da Vinci painted Lisa del Giocondo in the early 16th century, but Peruggia made her famous worldwide by walking out of the Louvre with the painting wrapped in his smock on August 21, 1911, one hundred years ago (today). With that daring daylight robbery, the Mona Lisa began her ascent into the stratosphere of cultural fame, while Peruggia  sank further and further into the hazy mists of vague infamy. 

How and why did Peruggia do it? More importantly, what would have happened if he hadn’t?

Peruggia came to Paris in search of a life in art, even if it was only as a part-time worker in the Louvre. Like many other Italians, Peruggia sought greater opportunities in the City of Lights only to find himself disparaged by the locals as “sale macaroni,” French for “dirty macaroni.” 

Wounded by prejudice and longing for home, Peruggia, as he later claimed, stole back what he mistakenly thought Napoleon had stolen from Italy a century before. In reality, Leonardo sold the painting to Francis I after moving to France to become court painter. But why did Vincenzo really do it?

In The Missing Piece: Vincenzo Peruggia and the Unthinkable Theft of the Mona Lisa, writer and director Joe Medeiros cinematically searches for the answer to that question. (You can see the film’s trailer above.)

 Medeiros enlists the help of Peruggia’s descendants, including his daughter and grandchildren, to track down the truth—whether it be the often-invoked patriotism motive or a more nefarious profit motive.

One less-noble theory has Peruggia stealing the painting for a con man who planned to sell six copies to wealthy investors while the real work was missing. 

Sadly, when Medeiros’ research unearths Peruggia’s letters that the police had taken as evidence, those letters reveal that Peruggia stole the Mona for the usual reasons—money and fame.


Noah Charney, international authority on art crime as founder and president of the Association for Research into Crimes against Art (ARCA), also takes on the art crime of the centuries in his new book, The Thefts of the Mona Lisa: On Stealing the World's Most Famous Painting.


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