Everyone knows her, everyone must have seen her at least once. Her quiet smile crossed centuries, enchanting millions of people from different ages, status, countries. She saw them too, anxious and enthusiast at the idea of taking a glimpse of her mysterious beauty. She is an unsolved enigma, but I guess that many of the readers have already understood who I’m talking about: “La Gioconda”. 

But we’re not here to describe this painting, or to talk about its genesis. What I’m going to tell you is the incredible story of its theft.

On 22nd August 1911 the Louvre’s staff noticed that the famous painting had disappeared. Initially, no one was worried because some paintings were relocated in order to take photos of them. However, the next day the news of the theft of Leonardo’s masterpiece was on everyone’s lips. The police thought that the thief would have asked a ransom or that it was a way to criticize the Louvre for its inefficiency. The investigators even accused and arrested Picasso and Apollinaire. Months passed, but nothing changed and people had only a desperate question: “Where is the Gioconda?”

The mystery was solved two years later. 

A man who called himself “Leonardo” claimed that he was the owner of the stolen painting and arranged a meeting with the director of the Uffizi and an art merchant. Once the painting’s authenticity was verified the police was informed and “Leonardo” was arrested.

The thief was Vincenzo Peruggia, an Italian and ex-employee at the Louvre. He stole the Gioconda because he wanted to return it to its true homeland: Italy. In fact, the thief firmly believed that Leonardo’s painting was one of the artworks stolen by Napoleon and brought in France at the beginning of the 19th century.

As we know, this is totally false and it is astonishing the fact that someone was capable to orchestrate such a theft because of a “fake news”.

In the end the Gioconda was returned to the Louvre (4th January 1914) and the thief arrested (people expected a sophisticated thief and not a common person, this is probably why he stayed in prison for only seven months).

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Maria Francesca Ficarra


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