School Datebooks Presents This Week In History: August 21, 1911

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August 21, 1911 – The Mona Lisa is stolen by a Louvre employee. It was recovered 27 months later.

 Louis Béroud was a painter who walked into the Louvre the next day to visit the painting, but found instead only four metal pegs. He then contacted the guards, who thought that the painting was being photographed at the time for publicity. After checking with the marketing section of the museum,  it was clear that the painting was missing, and the Louvre closed for a full week to investigate. 

During the investigation, French poet Guillaume Apollinaire, who had made arson threats to the museum before, became a suspect and was put into a jail. Apollinaire attempted to bring his friend, Pablo Picasso, into the affair, but both were later exonerated. 

The painting was believed to be lost forever and it was more than two years later before the true culprit was found. His name was Vincenzo Peruggia, an Italian Louvre employee, who had stolen it during regular hours and had hidden it in his coat after walking out after closing time. Peruggia was an Italian patriot who thought that the painting should be returned to Italy, the home of the painter Leonardo da Vinci.

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