A few days ago I shared a post I wrote about child serial killer Mary Bell. I thought I would post another paper I wrote in college that I found in my google drive today. There might be some other papers worth posting from my google drive. This paper was originally written on May 22, 2012, for my Examination of Forensic Evidence class. I removed where I was siting my work was from and adding headings. I did add her link down below. But let’s get on with the story. Please enjoy the Case of the Missing Mona Lisa.
Missing Mona Lisa
Mona Lisa is one of the most famous paintings in the world, known to many as “La Gioconda”. The Mona lisa has been stolen on August 21, 1911, from the Louvre. If you have never heard of the Louvre it is a famous museum in Paris, France. They did not find out she was missing until the next day. Protective glass panes were put over the paintings to protect them from vandalism.
Many people felt that they were too reflective. A painter by the name of Louis Beroud decided to take a stance against these panes of glass. He painted a girl fixing her hair in the reflection of the pane in front of the Mona Lisa.
Beroud, the next day walked into the Salon Carre’, where the Mona Lisa was to be hanging. As he walked up to the Mona Lisa he only found four iron pegs. Beroud then contacted the head of security. He thought the painting was with a photographer, only to find out hours later that it was not.
After gathering all security to search the museum it had come to the conclusion someone stole it. The police come when they reported her missing. They interviewed the visitors and slowly let them out and continued to search the museum.
Closing the museum for a week to conduct an investigation. The place where Mona Lisa hung became a shrine when the Louvre reopened.
Evidence was lacking on finding out who stole the painting. The only evidence they found was the frame donated by “Countess de Béarn two years prior, had not been damaged. Investigators and others speculated that the thief grabbed the painting off the wall, entered the stairwell, removed the painting from its frame, and then somehow left the museum unnoticed.” (Rosenberg, 2012)
Police began to investigate the employees to find out when the last time the painting was seen. “One worker remembered having seen the painting around 7 o’clock on Monday morning. That was a day before it was discovered missing. When he walked back by he noticed it gone an hour later. He had assumed a museum official had moved it.
Upon further investigation, the guard usually posted in the Salon Carre’ was home with his child who had measles. His replacement told officials “He left his post for a few minutes around 8 o’clock to smoke a cigarette”. All of this evidence pointed to the theft occurring somewhere between 7:00 and 8:30 on Monday morning.
Mondays are the day the museum is closed for cleaning. Roughly 800 people had access to the Salon Carre’. Interviews led with these people and the lead officials were nowhere closer to finding out who did it. One worker said they saw a stranger hanging out in the Salon Carre’. He did not get a good enough look to identify the stranger’s face. Even looking at photos at the station. None of them matched.
“The investigators brought in Alphonse Bertillon, a famous fingerprint expert. He found a thumbprint on the Mona Lisa’s frame. Bertillon was unable to match it with any in his files.”
Many theories went around about what happened to the Mona Lisa. Like “Frenchmen blaming the Germans, believing the theft was a ploy to demoralize their country. Some Germans thought it was a ploy by the French to distract from international concerns.”
Other theories blamed “a Louvre worker, who stole the painting in order to reveal how bad the Louvre was protecting these treasures.” Still, others believed “the whole thing was done as a joke and that the painting would be returned anonymously shortly.”
The Police had their own theory. Whoever stole it was going to use the painting to make a “monetary profit by blackmailing the Government”. Another theory “was that the painting had been accidentally destroyed during a cleaning. The museum was using the idea of a theft as a cover-up.”
Still missing 2 years later
Two years went by with no breakthrough on who stole the Mona Lisa. Finally, in autumn of 1913, “a well-known antique dealer, Alfredo Geri, innocently placed an ad in several Italian newspapers. In which he stated that he was “a buyer at good prices of art objects of every sort”. He received a letter from someone who claimed they had the stolen Mona Lisa and signed the letter as “Leonardo.” Geri thought he was dealing with someone who had a fake one, but still contacted the Commendatore Giovanni Poggi, museum director of the Uffizi in Florence, Italy.
They decided to write “Leonardo” back saying they would like to meet him in Milan on December 23. December 10, an Italian man with a mustache showed up and Geri’s store waited for all the customers to leave. He then revealed to Geri that his name was Leonardo Vincenzo. He had the painting back at his hotel room. Vincenzo also stated that he wanted a half million lire for it. Thatis the reason why he stole it in the first place.
Vincenzo wanted to restore the painting to Italy. Because Mona Lisa had been stolen by napoleon. He demanded that the painting be hung at the Uffizi. Vincezo demanded they never give it back to France. Geri agreed to meet him at his hotel and give him a half million lire. Only if the director could come see the painting before making any decisions about hanging it in the Uffizi. Vincenzo agreed. After he left Geri called the police and the Uffizi.
The sting to get Mona Lisa
The next day Geri and Poggi went to Leonardo’s hotel room. He removed the painting from a false bottom of a wooden trunk. Geri and Poggi knew it was the real Mona Lisa. Because the Louvre put a seal on the back of the painting. Vincenzo was not that smart and let Geri and Poggi walk out with the painting. So they could compare it to other works of Da Vinci’s to ensure its authenticity.
Leonardo Vincenzo was arrested for stealing the Mona Lisa. Upon his arrest we find out his real name was Vincenzo Peruggia. He gloated that stealing the painting was much easier than everyone thought it was. Peruggia worked at the Louvre in 1908. He was known by many of the guards. He walked into the museum and saw the Salon Carre’ was empty. Peruggia walked up grabbed the painting. Went to the staircase removed its frame and walked out with the painting under his painters smock.
The public went wild at the news of finding the Mona Lisa. The painting was displayed throughout Italy before it was returned to France on December 30, 1913.”
Why I chose this case?
The reason I chose this case to show how useful it would have been if fingerprinting and AFIS were created sooner. It would have saved 2 years of investigation searching for the Mona Lisa. Something as valuable as the Mona Lisa was stolen. It could have easily been found if fingerprinting was as popular then as it is today.
Although, Alphonse Bertillon found a fingerprint he couldn’t match it. We are fingerprinted for everything. Fingerprinting can be used to prove we are who we say we are. People can make fake ID’s and forge documents saying they are someone else. However, DNA and fingerprints you cant change, unless you dip your fingers in acid, but that would hurt to much.
They had no evidence to link this robbery to Vincenzo in anyway. He waited 2 years until he made contact wanting to hang the Mona Lisa in the Uffizi. He could have kept the painting for himself. Vincenzo might have never been caught. Unlike the previous case I talked about, where they had video surveillance of the shooter. They also had fingerprints, but that case had the technology to use to catch the killer. Although, it turned out they had the wrong guy. It was his twin brother.
Different cases, Same outcome
These cases are completely different in crime, motives and evidence, but in the end they both had the same outcome. It may have taken two weeks in the first cases about Donald and Ronald Smith and took two years to find Mona Lisa, but both men got what they deserved.
I think if Bertillon had the technology we do today. He could have solved this case within a couple of days. Bertillon did his job. He found the print, but it rendered useless in this case because they had nothing to compare it to. I think the only error the police made was that they only interviewed current employees, not previous employed people. If they had done that they could have got more evidence. Evidence that could have pointed to Vincenzo, because he worked for the Louvre in 1908.
Mona Lisa recovered!
Did you know the Mona Lisa was missing for 2 years? I did not when I was doing research to write this paper.
I hope you enjoyed this little mystery art thief case. If you are enjoying these let me know in the comments below. I have a bunch more I can post.
Until tomorrow, Have a great day. Remember you are a badass!
4 thoughts on “The Case of the Missing Mona Lisa”
Adam Rex has a great picture book on this. I knew because years ago I saw the photo they took when they unwrapped it after it was returned to the museum. I was intrigued and had to google. I think I also wrote a post about what if it was a copy that was returned and would it matter – as there was obviously some skill involved in the artistry anyway…..#Blogtober21
That would be crazy if it was a fake returned to the museum.
I had no idea that the Mona Lisa had been stolen. It does sound like it was easy to steal. Eek. It would have been so much easier to find the thief if fingerprinting was a thing back then. x
It is crazy to think how easy it was for him to steal it back then.
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