In her autobiography D.V., legendary fashion doyenne Diana Vreeland recounts the (probably apocryphal) story of how she and her sister and their governess were the last to see the Mona Lisa before it was unexpectedly removed from view at the Louvre: the next morning, it was stolen by a man posing as a member of the museum’s maintenance staff in what is still called “the art heist of the century” (though the still-unsolved 1990 thefts at Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum have a pretty good claim at that title as well).
This month marks the 100th anniversary of the crime, and the Financial Times observes the occasion with a fascinating feature article that tells the tale of the theft of what was (then as now) the world’s most famous work of art and the two-year investigation which followed, which included none other than poet Guillaume Apollinaire and some dude named Picasso as suspects.
The man who was eventually caught and tried for the theft was a “mentally deficient” Italian house painter-cum-glazier named Vincent Peruggia. When questioned why he had decided to walk off with the world’s most famous painting, Peruggia’s explanation was as concise as it was touching: “I fell in love with her.” Surely anyone who has walked through the Met and fallen hard for a particular Vermeer or Bronzino could relate — though since anyone nowadays with a copy of MS Paint, a couple of hours, and a hell of a lot of nerve can make their very own museum-worthy copy of Ms. Mona themselves, why risk it?
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