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April 8, 2010 12:54 PM   Subscribe

“But I decided on the Mona Lisa, which was the smallest painting and the easiest to transport.” “So there was no chance,” asked the court, “that you decided on it because it was the most valuable painting?” - From Vanity Fair, the twisting, engaging story of how the Mona Lisa was stolen in broad daylight in 1911. (via)
posted by The Whelk (13 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
That was a fantastic article. I've always heard 'mutter mutter mutter oh and that one time the Mona Lisa was stolen, but it's over' and for some reason had never tried to learn more about it. Thanks!
posted by shakespeherian at 1:45 PM on April 8, 2010

Given that, nowadays, it is displayed opposite to The Wedding at Cana, I can see why one would want to go after the smaller painting.

And yet... If there's a will, there's a way.
posted by Fruny at 2:07 PM on April 8, 2010

I read that Picasso completed his Demoiselles d’Avignon in 1907, so I doubt he could have been stopped by police shortly after the Mona Lisa's theft in 1911 while carrying the inspiration for his previous work. Just saying.
posted by klausman at 2:41 PM on April 8, 2010

I love the kicker at the end about the thirty fake Mona Lisas. I wonder how many of them have "THIS IS A FAKE" scrawled on the board beneath the paint?
posted by egypturnash at 2:47 PM on April 8, 2010 [5 favorites]

Fruny, when I was in Paris I was waaay more taken with the Wedding At Cana, which has all these interlacing narratives and motifs and in-jokes then with the Mona Lisa, which was always too crowded to get a good look at anyway.

That being said, the Louvre is just stupid big and full of treasures and Big Art Moments around every corner. Never disappointing
posted by The Whelk at 5:35 PM on April 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

klausman, the article doesn't say Picasso was stopped with the heads. It says he was stopped...and 4 years earlier had bought the heads.
posted by Megafly at 6:13 PM on April 8, 2010

Haven't been to the Louvre, but the Uffizi is ridiculous too. The Leonardo pieces there are pretty swell, but I was just blown away by Botticelli's work, "The Birth of Venus" in particular. I know I know, Photoshop has oversold it, but to stand in front of it is to experience colour and light in a new way. And beyond that, his lighthearted sense of character makes me curious why da Vinci continues to be viewed with such reverence. The tone of his work comes off, to me, as heavy, too heavy.
posted by kneecapped at 9:39 PM on April 8, 2010

That being said, the Louvre is just stupid big and full of treasures and Big Art Moments around every corner. Never disappointing

I went to Paris with my girlfriend, who had been before. I told her that I didn't need to see the Louvre. I thought we could go see the d'Orsay. She said, "fool, you're not going to Paris and not going to the Louvre." Maybe she didn't say fool. It was stupid big and full of treasures and Big Art Moments around every corner. We turned a corner and there was the Winged Victory of Samothrace. Definitely not disappointing.

That being said, the Mona Lisa was mostly a crowd of people taking cell phone pictures.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 10:39 PM on April 8, 2010

This summer I will be vacationing in Paris and this exactly the kind of story I need to drag my son into the museum. Wonderful piece, thanx The Whelk
posted by ouke at 12:15 AM on April 9, 2010

Thanks. What a great read, and the fact that I didn't know the details beforehand guaranteed a fantastic payoff.
posted by The Mouthchew at 2:28 AM on April 9, 2010

This was great. I really hope the story was completely true. It's such a happy ending in that a) the original work was returned unharmed and b) only millionaires who were willing to buy a priceless stolen masterpiece were harmed.

I'm sort of surprised we have any masterpieces left in museums at all, if all you had to do was pick one up and walk out with it while wearing a smock.
posted by haveanicesummer at 9:20 AM on April 9, 2010

For those of you complaining about how crowded the Mona Lisa is (agree), or how overwhelmingly big the Louvre is (agree), I give you The Perfect Way to Visit the Louvre:

Day 1) Buy Paris Visite pass (>1 day), see the sections you want to see and any special masterpieces. Spend rest of day visiting other famous things free and skipping lines with awesome pass.

Day 2) Return to Louvre at or before opening time. Skip all lines, go directly to Mona Lisa. Have private chat while others buy tickets, get maps, etc. Spend rest of day seeing other cool things free with awesome pass.

Right now (until May?) there is a Playmobil exhibit at the Museum of Decorative Stuff. It is awesome.
posted by whatzit at 1:42 PM on April 9, 2010

A bit late to the party, but for those of you intrigued by this story, you can also read about it in Vanished Smile: the mysterious theft of the Mona Lisa, which goes into incredible detail about the theft and the aftermath. The style is very similar to the VF article, but in much greater depth, of course. It's an interesting story (Picasso as suspect? the origins of the true thief? also, how crazy bad the security at the Louvre was?) with a fittingly weird ending.
posted by librarylis at 10:25 PM on April 12, 2010

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