August 21 marks the 100th anniversary of the theft of the Mona Lisa. Security was so lax its disappearance was noted a day later when it became apparent that it wasn’t in the hands of a scholar or a photographer.
When the museum opened a week after the theft, a large line of guests queued to see the empty space where the master work was once located. The thin beguiling smile was replaced by four hooks and a square of unfaded paint. It was the century’s first exhibition of conceptual art.
Opportunities for art theft are far greater than occurrences of art theft. If it’s difficult to profit from obscure stolen art, then imagine the daunting task of selling the world’s most famous painting. The thief was able to remove the work undetected. His downfall occurred when he tried to sell it.
As the anniversary nears, there are several great books and articles to mark the event. I encourage you to read at least one article about the theft. It’s a fascinating story and it helps explain how the Mona Lisa was transformed from a 15th Century masterwork to the star of the Louvre. One hundred years later, long lines still form for a brief gaze at the lady from Florence.