I Stole the Mona Lisa (What Have You Ever Done?)
On this date in 1911, the Italian artist/handyman Vincenzo Peruggia stole the “Mona Lisa” from the Louvre in Paris.
A former worker at the museum, Peruggia hid inside the Louvre on the evening of Sunday, August 20, knowing it would be closed. The next morning he smuggled the painting out under an artist’s smock. Peruggia reportedly kept Ms. Lisa hidden in a trunk in his Florence apartment for two years, but he eventually got busted when he tried to turn it in to a local gallery owner and claim a reward.
The media spectacle surrounding the crime led to increased interest in Leonardo’s masterpiece, helping to propel it to its current status as the world’s most recognizable painting. (You’ve heard of it, right?)
Peruggia’s crime has been described as “the greatest art theft of the 20th century” — or so says Wikipedia in an uncited superlative.