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It’s one of the most famous art thefts in history.
But when it happened 110 years ago, the theft of the Mona Lisa from the Louvre museum in Paris barely registered with the wider world.
At the time, it was mainly art aficionados who were aware of Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece.
It was only its discovery, two years later, which truly brought it into mainstream consciousness and ultimately its status today as the world's most famous painting.
On 21 August, 1911, the Mona Lisa was stolen by Italian carpenter Vincenzo Peruggia, who was carrying out repairs at the Louvre, which was closed on that day.
Prof Donald Sassoon, who chronicled the Mona Lisa in his 2001 book The History of the World's Most Famous Painting, tells Yahoo News UK: “He decided to steal the Mona Lisa not because it was then the most famous painting, but because it was small – and he was a small man.
"His favourite painting was by Andrea Mantegna, but it was much bigger.”
The Mona Lisa, which was painted on a wood panel, is 77cm by 55cm.
Prof Sassoon continues: “He removed the wood from the frame and he just left and went home to his bedsit. He kept it there for a couple of years, he didn’t know what to do with it.
“He kept it next to the stove, and because it’s a piece of wood it warped a bit, but otherwise it was OK.
“It was a big story because it was stolen in August. Nothing happens in August, normally. So the press, especially the French and English popular press, picked up the story.
“But even then, it was not widely regarded. The connoisseurs knew about it, but it was before the age of tourism.”
Then a few weeks later, the prime minister of Russia, Pyotr Stolypin, was assassinated. “So the story moved on.”
By the time Peruggia took it to Florence, Italy, in 1913, the Mona Lisa had “more or less been forgotten,” Prof Sassoon says.
It was ultimately found when he wrote to a Florence art dealer claiming to have the painting. The dealer alerted Giovanni Poggi, the director of the city’s Uffizi gallery. Poggi alerted the police, and Peruggia was arrested.
The discovery is truly “what made the Mona Lisa well known,” Prof Sassoon says.
It was so major that it toured Italy before being brought back to France on a train in January 1914. A crowd of people was even waiting for it.
Peruggia, meanwhile, got six months in jail.
Prof Sassoon laughs: “He claimed he was doing it out of nationalism and wanted to give the painting back to his motherland, or some nonsense like that.
“He had his quarter of an hour of fame, but otherwise he was a normal carpenter."
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