In 1911, one man – without a plan, an escape route, or a buyer – managed to steal the Mona Lisa from the Louvre. Here’s how he did it.Vincenzo Peruggia stole the Mona Lisa from the Louvre in 1911. He never thought that what he did would make this painting the most recognizable painting on the planet.
image credit: Joe Medeiros
He was hired by the Louvre to make protective glass cases for some its most famous works, among them the Mona Lisa. He thought that Napoleon had stolen the painting from Italy a century ago, and as a real Italian patriot, he wanted to bring the picture to Italy where it “belonged.” In reality, Leonardo da Vinci sold the painting to Francis I when he moved to France in order to become a court painter.
image credit: VIRGIL FILMS, LLC
After hiding in a closet overnight, Vincenzo Peruggia took the painting and hid it under his smock. He was ready to leave the Louvre when he discovered that the door was locked.Peruggia tried to remove the doorknob, but he was still not able to open the door until a plumber that was passing by opened the door with his key.
It took more than 24 hours before anyone even noticed that the Mona Lisa was missing. There were no alarms at that time and only 200 guards watching over the 400 rooms in the Louvre.
Two years later, Peruggia contacted art experts in Italy about selling the painting. He hid the painting for two years in a trunk in his apartment. He was arrested and sentenced to seven months in jail. He claimed that he stole the painting to return it to her native Italy.Today Mona Lisa is the most famous painting in the world and attracts around 10 million visitors to the Paris museum every year.