Is the Mona Lisa the Original Kardashian?
I love how I learn new things when I travel. I pick up interesting tidbits here and there from all kinds of sources. Whether it’s the history of a local dish, local analysis of a political situation, or an interesting fact about a famous landmark, I love these little things. It’s also part of the reason I tend to book day tours when I travel.
For some reason unknown to me, one of my aunts nicknamed me Mona Lisa many years so it was pretty special when I got to stand a few feet from the real deal at the Louvre in Paris this fall. It could also be why I find the bit of trivia I learned about her so interesting. She’s been called the best known, the most visited, the most written about, the most sung about, the most parodied work of art in the world. But why is the Mona Lisa so famous?
Is it because of her enigmatic smile? Is it because she was painted by Renaissance darling, Leonardo da Vinci? Is it because she’s such a far superior creation to all other paintings? Nope, they all contribute but it’s not the reason she’s the superstar she is today. So how did the Mona Lisa get to be so famous? She was stolen.
The heist itself wasn’t spectacular. There was no ‘Italian Job’ level planning and scheming. There were no Bond-like gadgets and devices. One night in 1911, Italian handyman Vincenzo Peruggia simply hid in a closet until after closing time at the Louvre, put the Mona Lisa under his smock, and walked out the door. Museum security was a far cry from what it is today and it was a full day before anyone even realized the painting was missing, since artwork was frequently moved for photographing or cleaning.
Suddenly, everyone was talking about the theft and the image of the Mona Lisa was splashed across the front pages. A star was born. The investigation dragged on for two years with no results. Pablo Picasso was even brought in for questioning in her disappearance. The was no sign of La Joconde anywhere. The Mona Lisa was thought to be lost forever.
The whole time the painting was locked away in a trunk in Peruggia’s apartment until, in 1913, he tried to sell it to the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy. He admitted that he had stolen it from the Louvre and thought he would be heralded as a national hero for returning the masterpiece to her homeland. He was wrong and served 6 months in jail for the offense, while da Vinci’s masterpiece did a grand tour of Italy before returning to her home in the Louvre.
She’s the original Kardashian. Made the news once and is now famous just for being famous. Had Peruggia stolen another piece, the Mona Lisa would be just another painting by a very famous artist instead of the most famous painting in the world.
You know I couldn’t visit the most famous painting in the world and not take a selfie. ;)