365 Days of Art: December 11 – Stolen Mona Lisa Recovered in Hotel Room, Séraphine Dies

La Gioconda (popularly known as The Mona Lisa), Leonardo da Vinci, 1503-1517

La Gioconda (popularly known as The Mona Lisa), Leonardo da Vinci, 1503-1517

December 11, 1913

By appointment, antiques dealer Signor Geri and director of the Uffizi Gallery Signor Poggi arrive at Leonardo Vincenzo’s Florence hotel room to inspect what Leonardo claims is the stolen Mona Lisa. Leonardo removes underwear, shoes, a shirt, and a false bottom from a trunk, to reveal the Mona Lisa.

Geri and Poggi are convinced the painting is the original because of the Louvre seal on the back. Poggi bluffs that he needs to authenticate the painting by comparing it with other da Vincis in the Uffizi’s collection. Incredibly, Vincenzo allows the men to walk out with the painting.

Geri and Poggi send the police in to arrest Vincenzo, whose real name is Vincenzo Peruggia.

Now to solve the mystery: it’s far easier than anyone has imagined. Peruggia’s only goal has been to return the painting to Italy. He becomes obsessed with this Robin Hoodesque idea while working at the Louvre five years before. Because many of the guards know and recognize him still, he’s able to walk into the Louvre easily. He takes the painting when he see the Salon Carré is empty. He brings it into a secluded staircase, removes it from its frame, hides it under his painter’s smock, and walks out of the museum.

Art lovers everywhere are overjoyed to hear the Mona Lisa is found. She goes on a celebratory tour of Italy before being returned to France at the end of the month.

December 11, 1942

Séraphine Louis, known as “Séraphine de Senlis”, a self-taught painter of flowers, patterns, and religious imagery, dies in a mental hospital. The movie inspired by her life and work (Séraphine) is incredible.