Synopses & Reviews
In Paris at the start of a radically new century, the most famous face in the history of art stepped out of her frame and into a sensational mystery.
On August 21, 1911, the unfathomable happened—Leonardo da Vincis Mona Lisa vanished from the Louvre. More than twenty-four hours passed before museum officials realized she was gone. The prime suspects were as shocking as the crime: Pablo Picasso and Guillaume Apollinaire, young provocateurs of a new art. As French detectives using the latest methods of criminology, including fingerprinting, tried to trace the thieves, a burgeoning international media hyped news of the heist.
No story captured the imagination of the world quite like this one. Thousands flocked to the Louvre to see the empty space where the painting had hung. They mourned as if Mona Lisa were a lost loved one, left flowers and notes, and set new attendance records. For more than two years, Mona Lisas absence haunted the art world, provoking the question: Was she lost forever? A century later, questions still linger.
Part love story, part mystery, Vanished Smile reopens the case of the most audacious and perplexing art theft ever committed. R. A. Scottis riveting, ingeniously realized account is itself a masterly portrait of a world in transition. Combining her skills as a historian and a novelist, Scotti turns the tantalizing clues into a story of the paintings transformation into the most familiar and lasting icon of all time.
"In this charming account of the brazen 1911 theft of the Mona Lisa from the Louvre and the two-year quest to bring her home, Scotti (Basilica) explores not only the puzzling crime but also the source of the painting's universal appeal and its provenance. On the morning of Tuesday, August 22, La Joconde was found missing from the Salon Carr. Even with help of renowned French criminologist Alphonse Bertillon, the trail was cold from the start. Rumors abounded about greedy, wealthy American collectors and the Louvre's lax security. No one in Paris was above suspicion, not even the young Pablo Picasso. While the portrait was finally recovered in Florence in 1913, its theft apparently the result of a young Italian's misguided patriotism (the painting's probable subject is a young Florentine, Lisa del Giocondo), Scotti is eager to remind readers that the mystery is far from over. The true motive for the theft and the possible connection to a larger ring of art thieves remains tantalizingly unknown by the end of this lively recounting. Photos." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
The astonishing story of the still unsolved mystery of Mona Lisa’s disappearance in 1911 told with dramatic freshness and imagination.
On August 21, 1911, the unfathomable happened— Mona Lisa vanished from the Louvre. More than twenty-four hours passed before museum officials realized she was gone. The prime suspects in the case were as shocking as the crime—the young avant-garde poet Guillaume Apollinaire and his friend Pablo Picasso. R. A. Scotti’s riveting, ingeniously realized account of the theft and its aftermath (the painting would not be recovered for more than two years) is itself a masterful portrait of a world in transition, transforming itself into the modern while enjoying a last carefree fling before the onset of war. As French detectives using new methods of criminology, including fingerprinting, tried to trace the thief, a burgeoning international media spread news of the theft around the world. In Paris, thousands flocked to the Louvre to see the empty space where the painting had hung. Some brought flowers and love letters and mourned as if for an actual death. Others spun theories about the disappearance.
Mona Lisa’s loss only compounded her mystery. In Scotti’s deft hands, the tale of this great art heist becomes a story of the painting’s transformation into perhaps the most familiar and lasting icon of all time.
Scotti's riveting, ingeniously realized account of the 1911 theft of the "Mona Lisa" and its aftermath is a masterful portrait of a world in transition, transforming itself into the modern while enjoying a last carefree fling before the onset of war.
About the Author
R. A. Scotti is the author of three previous works of nonfiction, including Basilica: The Splendor and the Scandal—Building St. Peters and Sudden Sea: The Great Hurricane of 1938, and four novels. She lives in New York City.