Showing posts with label Mona Lisa. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mona Lisa. Show all posts

November 8, 2014

Saturday, November 08, 2014 - ,,, No comments

The documentary "Mona Lisa is Missing" is now available on Netflix, iTunes, and Amazon

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

Director Joe Medeiros' 2012 documentary "Mona Lisa is Missing" (formerly "The Missing Piece") is now available on Netflix, iTunes and Amazon through US distributor Virgil Films:
This documentary examines the case of Vincenzo Peruggia, an unassuming house painter charged with stealing the "Mona Lisa" from the Louvre in 1911. (Netflix summary)
ARCA alumna Tanya K. Levrick reviewed the film in July 2012 on the ARCA blog here. The film was also produced by Joe's wife, Justine, and showed in Los Angeles last year.

Medeiros discusses the theft of Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece from Paris on the ARCA blog here.

February 27, 2014

Thursday, February 27, 2014 - , No comments

"Mona Lisa Is Missing" DVD offers a special discount price to ARCA blog readers

Joe Medeiros, producer of the documentary on the 1911 theft of the Mona Lisa from the Louvre, has a special offer for ARCA blog readers:
It's the greatest little-known art theft of all time. With the most unlikely thief. And no one knows why he really did it. Until now. 100 years after the theft of the Mona Lisa, the award-winning documentary "Mona Lisa Is Missing" reveals the real reason Vincenzo Peruggia stole the Mona Lisa from the Louvre -- a reason Peruggia's only daughter didn't even know. And now ARCA members can own the DVD -- featuring 90 minutes of Bonus Features -- at a special discount price. Click on this link: and enter (or copy and paste) this special code at checkout: 3UJGLXNQYTJ8.
Here's a blog post on the documentary -- I've seen it twice and will still purchase this for the additional footage offered on the DVD.

November 13, 2013

Wednesday, November 13, 2013 - ,, No comments

ARCA Founder Noah Charney Publishes in The Guardian on the Question: "Did the Nazis steal the Mona Lisa?"

This is the photograph by Jean-Pierre-Muller Javier
Sorrian/AFP/Getty Images of the Louvre's Mona Lisa
 and the copy housed at Madrid's Prado Museum. guardian  
Here's a link to an article in today's Guardian, Did the Nazis steal the Mona Lisa?, written by Noah Charney, founder of ARCA. The article was adapted from Charney's book, The Thefts of the Mona Lisa: On Stealing the World's Most Famous Painting.
With the recent discovery in Munich of €1bn (£860m) worth of art looted by the Nazis, and the forthcoming release of a feature film, starring George Clooney, based on the exploits of the Monuments Men, it is a fitting time to recall how fortunate we are that so much art survived thesecond world war. The Nazi art theft division, the ERR (Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg), was responsible for the theft of around 5m works: from the Louvre, the Uffizi and countless churches, galleries and homes. From headline-grabbing works like Michelangelo's Bruges Madonna to the most frequently stolen artwork in history, Jan van Eyck's Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, both of which feature in the Clooney film, to lesser-known gems that nevertheless held a place in the hearts of museumgoers or families, the story of art looting during the second world war is a tree with countless roots. Each masterpiece has its own history, a provenance ripe with intrigue. Few of the individual stories have been told, fewer still in depth.
Among the many enduring mysteries of this periodis the fate of the world's most famous painting. It seems that Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa was among the paintings found in the Altaussee salt mine in the Austrian alps, which was converted by the Nazis into their secret stolen-art warehouse. 
The painting only "seems" to have been found there because contradictory information has come down through history, and the Mona Lisa is not mentioned in any wartime document, Nazi or allied, as having been in the mine. Whether it may have been at Altaussee was a question only raised when scholars examined the postwar Special Operations Executive report on the activities of Austrian double agents working for the allies to secure the mine. This report states that the team "saved such priceless objects as the Louvre's Mona Lisa". A second document, from an Austrian museum near Altaussee dated 12 December 1945, states that "the Mona Lisa from Paris" was among "80 wagons of art and cultural objects from across Europe" taken into the mine.
You may read the rest of the article here.

October 17, 2013

Thursday, October 17, 2013 - , No comments

Film director Medeiros on whether or not Vincenzo Peruggia hid in the closet before he stole the Mona Lisa in 1911

by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

Did Vincenzo Peruggia just walk into the Louvre on a Monday morning and steal the Mona Lisa or did he hide overnight in the Paris museum? Was Peruggia an employee of the Louvre at the time of the theft? Did he pick Leonardo da Vinci's painting because it was small and portable (the easiest to take of the Italian works on display in the Salon Carré? I asked these questions to Joe Medeiros, writer and director of "The Missing Piece: Mona Lisa, Her Thief, The True Story".
Actually, Peruggia wasn't working at the Louvre when he stole the painting.  He had finished putting the artwork behind glass in January.  But Gobier, the company he worked for, continued to work there repairing the glass roof of the museum.  Peruggia had left Gobier in July during a strike and had gone to work with another company. I do think he stole it for the size, but also -- possibly --because it was a Leonardo. According to his testimony -- and the police didn't dispute it -- he entered that morning and didn't hide overnight.  No reason to.  Security was very lax.
Here is a link to the documentary's blog where Mr. Medeiros posts all the screenings.

If you're in San Diego tonight, you might be able to catch the show!

October 13, 2013

"The Missing Piece: Mona Lisa, Her Thief, The True Story" documents an art crime and a writer's obsession to understand motive

Joe and Justine Medeiros in Hollywood
 at the Arclight Documentary Festival
by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

“The Missing Piece: Mona Lisa, Her Thief, The True Story”, winner of the award for Best Historical Documentary in the San Antonio Film Festival, provides clarity on how and why an immigrant housepainter, Vincenzo Peruggia, stole Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” from the Louvre in 1911.

Written and directed by Joe Medeiros and produced by his wife Justine, this documentary of a Parisian art theft tells the story of one writer’s obsession that lead him to a Northern Italian village to meet the art thief’s only living offspring, 84-year-old Celestina. Joe Medeiros hoped that Peruggia’s daughter could explain why her father, an immigrant painter living in Paris, had stolen the da Vinci masterpiece from the Salon Carré and hidden it for two years. Was Peruggia a patriot who believed he was returning a masterpiece Napoleon had stolen from Italy? Or was he an ordinary criminal looking to make a fortune? Unfortunately, Celestina did not remember her father who had died of a heart attack in Paris before she was two years old. Not until the age of 20 did Celestina learn from her aunt that her father had stolen the Mona Lisa. After promising to find out what motivated Celestina's father to steal da Vinci's masterpiece, Joe and Justine Medeiros visited the Louvre and archives in Paris with Peruggia’s grandson before traveling with Peruggia's granddaughter to the hotel where the painting was recovered in Florence in 1913.

“The Missing Piece” documents the efforts to research, translate and retrace a century old art crime. Art crime specialists such as Charles Hill, Scotland Yard Art Squad (retired), and Robert Wittman, FBI Art Crime Team (retired), appear with Louvre curators and other writers on the Mona Lisa theft (Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler, The Crimes of Paris). Medeiros draws conclusions from primary sources to explain how Peruggia stole the painting and got it out of his museum and to his apartment (apparently he used both a bus and a horse carriage); where he stored the painting for two years; how the French police investigated the crime and how close the great detective  came to identifying both the thief and the painting’s hiding place; and finally, the “missing piece” which leads conclusively to the motive for the theft. The story includes Peruggia’s bouts with lead poisoning, the truth about the psychological evaluation used in his trial, and how Peruggia returned to France after his imprisonment during World War I. The film ends with Joe Medeiros revealing the truth to Celestina, turning the story from art crime to that of family.

"It's not a big, budget Hollywood movie, but it does tell a good story that has a beginning, middle and, fortunately, a happy ending," Joe Medeiros said.

The movie's website and blog contains more information.

Tanya Lervik (ARCA 2011) reviewed this movie last year at a screening in Washington, D.C.

September 24, 2013

Showtimes for Joe Medeiros' documentary about the life and motivations of Vincenzo Peruggia's theft of the Mona Lisa

In July 2012, Tanya Levrik reviewed Joe Medeiros' documentary The Missing Piece: Mona Lisa, Her Thief, The True Story about the life and motivations of Vincenzo Peruggia who stole Leonardo da Vinci's "La Joconde" from the Louvre in 1911. This film is still being seen in festivals across the country:

 thru Thursday, Sept. 26
4:10 pm
The Screen, Santa Fe, NM

Thursday, Sept. 26 - 7:30 pm
Atlas Cinema Eastgate, Cleveland, OH

Tuesday, Oct 1 thru Saturday, Oct. 5 - 6:15 pm
The Guild Cinema, Albuquerque, NM

Thursday, Oct. 3 thru Saturday, Oct. 5
Friday, Oct. 4 1:00 pm & 8:00 pm
Saturday, Oct. 5 - 8:00 pm

Friday, October 11 - 3:30 pm

Friday, Oct. 11 - 7:00 pm
Sunday, Oct. 13 - 1:30 pm
Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH

Sunday, Oct. 13 - 3:00 pm & 5:00 pm
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX

Thursday, Oct. 15
Friday, Oct. 16
The Media Arts Center, San Diego, CA

Sunday, Oct. 20 - 2:00 pm
Sacramento, CA

Wednesday, Nov. 20 - 7:00 pm
Hiway Theater, Jenkintown, PA
Live Q&A with filmmakers

Sunday, November 24 - 4:30 pm
The Colonial Theater, Phoenixville, PA
Live Q&A with filmmakers

Thursday, Dec. 5 - 7:30 pm
Ambler Theater, Ambler, PA
Skype Q & A withfilmmakers

Tuesday, Dec. 20 - 8:00 pm
Batelle Film Club, Richland, WA

May 12, 2013

The Missing Piece: Mona Lisa, Her thief, The True Story Headed to Denver Art Museum this Friday and to the Biografilm Festival in Bologna in June

The Missing Piece: Mona Lisa, Her Thief, The True Story, the documentary about the 1911 theft of Leonardo da Vinci's now famous portrait of Lisa Gherardini del Giocondo from the Louvre, premiered in Los Angeles at the Beverly Hills Film Festival on Saturday, May 11.

"We were thrilled to have The Missing Piece screen at Grauman's Chinese Theater for the Beverly Hills Film Festival," Director Joe Medeiros wrote to the ARCA Blog. "We had a very enthusiastic sold-out crowd.  It was our 9th festival and one of the best so far."

Medeiros bills the film as "the true story of how and why Vincenzo Peruggia, a simple Italian immigrant, stole the Mona Lisa and nearly got away with it".

The film will screen at the Denver Art Museum at 7 p.m. this Friday (May 17):
Come to a riveting and humorous documentary film about Vincent Peruggia, the man who stole the Mona Lisa from the Louvre in 1911, his 84-year-old daughter who thought he did it for patriotic reasons, and the filmmaker who spent more than 30 years trying to find the truth.  Written and produced by Joe Medeiros, former head writer for The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, this documentary combines historical photographs, animation and interviews with Peruggia’s descendants to examine how an unassuming housepainter from Italy pulled off “the greatest little-known heist in modern time.”  The producers will be present for Q&A after the film.
The international premiere of the movie will be at the Biografilm Festival in Bologna on Saturday June 15 and Sunday June 16.

Joe Medeiros, writer/director, and
Justine Medeiros, producer. 
ARCA Alum ('11) Tanya Lervik saw the movie last July in Georgetown and reviewed the movie here.

Last October Joe Medeiros weighed in on the Isleworth Mona Lisa, positioning that the painting had not been newly discovered but around for almost a century (see the ARCA blog post here).

This documentary is available for private screenings. Here are the project's links:


Updated May 15 to include information from the director Joe Medeiros.

December 27, 2012

October 5, 2012

Intriguing Headlines Tout Second Mona Lisa But What Do the Experts Opine?

Isleworth Mona Lisa (Wiki)
'La Joconde' (1503-1506) has mostly hung in the Louvre (INV. 779) since Francois I acquired it in 1518.  Last week The Mona Lisa Foundation reintroduced the 'Isleworth Mona Lisa' which had not been seen in public for more than 40 years and declared that it was an earlier unfinished portrait of Lisa Gherardini del Giocondo by da Vinci.

Jamie Keaton for the Associated Press (published online here in Business Week) reported on the unveiling of the Isleworth Mona Lisa in Geneva on September 28.  Keaton points out the Alessandro Vezzosi (see below) 'declined to line up behind the foundation's claim that it was truly a "Mona Lisa" predecessor painted by da Vinci.  Here, on the Museo Ideale Leonardo da Vinci's website, Professor Vezzosi clarifies that research on  the "Isleworth Mona Lisa" will continue.

The Mona Lisa Foundation, a non-profit organization based in Zurich, has on its website a 22-minute video that walks the viewer through its claim, using historical documentation (including writings of 16th century art historian Giorgio Vasari), connoisseurship, critical comparisons and physical and scientific examinations.  Participants in the video include Professor Alessandro Vezzosi, Director of the Museo Ideale Leonardo da Vinci; Professor John F. Asmus, Research Physicist at the University of California in San Diego; Stanley B. Feldman, and art historian and principal author of "Mona Lisa - Leonardo's Earlier Version".  The video asks if it is possible that there was another Mona Lisa and if so, what could have happened to it? It is claimed that Giorgio Vasari and Agostino Vespucci mention a painting left unfinished.  In the early 20th century, Hugh Blaker, curator of The Holburne Museum  in Bath, believed in the two Mona Lisa painting theory and spent a decade looking for the unfinished version until he found it "in the Somerset home of an English nobleman" "who's family had owned the painting for nearly 150 years."  Blaker brought it to his London studio in Isleworth, then shipped it to the United States where it hung in the private offices of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, according to the video.  Then in 1922, Blaker sent the Isleworth Mona Lisa to Italy for the opinion of experts there.  In 1926, Baker's stepfather, John Eyre, published "The Two Mona Lisas."  Henry F. Pulitzer, over a period of 26 years, liquidated his Kensington estate and part of his art collection to purchase the Isleworth Mona Lisa.  In 1979, after Pulitzer's death, the painting was locked up in a Swiss Bank vault "where it would remain for more than four decades."  "Can science at least succeed where connoisseurship has failed [in establishing the painting's authenticity]?" In 2004, the Isleworth Mona Lisa was removed from its security vault and "entrusted to world renowned art auctioneer David Feldman" (Vice President of the Mona Lisa Foundation).  "Over the next 12 years, the painting went through every test" including examination by Professor Asmus who has also examined the Louvre Mona Lisa who saying "Leonardo's hand" is evident in some aspects of the Isleworth Mona Lisa.

In ABC New's "Second Mona Lisa Unveiled for First Time in 40 Years", Mathew Rosenbaum quotes Martin Kemp, Oxford University professor and da Vinci expert, as proclaiming the Isleworth Mona Lisa a "well-made early copy".  [Professor Kemp outlines his opinion in more detail on his blog here where he refutes the 'evidence' of a second Mona Lisa and identifies the poor qualities of the painting: "Everything points to the Isleworth painting being a copy.  There is a comparable copy -- island and all -- in the National Museum in Oslo."]

On ABC's Good Morning America and World News segment, Alexander Nagel, Professor of Fine Arts for NYU, says that the Isleworth Mona Lisa is "suspect" as it is painted on canvas and Leonardo painted on wood.

"A Second Mona Lisa? We've known about it for 100 Years" is the headline for the blog post by Joe Medeiros, director of the documentary, "The Missing Piece: Vincenzo Peruggia and the Unthinkable Theft of the Mona Lisa".  This painting is nothing new, according to Medeiros and reprints the article from The New York Times on February 5, 1914: Another Mona Lisa Found in London? Expert Accepts It as a Version Painted by Leonardo "In No Sense A Copy".  According to this article, a version of the Mona Lisa painting turned up in the possession of a Mr. Eyre, an author and novelist living in Isleworth.  P. G. Konody, a Special Correspondence for The New York Times, writes that the Isleworth Mona Lisa is 'of such superb quality that it more than holds its own when compared to the much restored and repainted Louvre masterpiece':
But there are more potent reasons to attach the greatest importance to the new discovery.  There is, in the collection of old master drawings at the Louvre an original pen drawing by Raphael, which is reproduced in Muntz's great work on Leonardo, and which is generally admitted to be a memory sketch by Raphael of Leonardo's "Mona Lisa."  Now this memory sketch is framed at both sides by two columns of which no trace is to be found in the Paris "Mona Lisa." These columns appear in the identical place in the Isleworth picture and are of immense value to the harmonious balance of the composition. 
In the notice sent out to the press it is stated that these columns are mentioned by Vasari, which is as little in accordance with facts as most of the other statements made.  Thus, one of the points quoted in favor of the authenticity of the picture is one of Leonardo's letters to Marshal de Chaumont.  In this letter occurs the passage: "E portar con mecho due quadri di due Notro Donne di varie grandezze le qual son fatte pel cristianissimo notro re."  While most art historians have misread this to mean that Leonardo took with him "two pictures of Our Lady, of different sizes," the writer of the widely circulated notice says that the existence of two versions of the "Mona Lisa" is proved by Leonardo himself referring to two portraits.  A literal translation of the quoted passage would however run as follows: "And take with me two portraits of two of our ladies, of different sizes, which have been painted for our most Christian King", the letter thus reflecting clearly to two different ladies and not to two versions of the same. 
However, no specious arguments are needed for the Isleworth picture, the quality of which may speak for itself.  And a close investigation of the picture leaves the firm conviction that, though not altogether from the hand of Leonardo da Vinci himself, it emanates most certainly from his studio and was very largely worked up by the master himself.  The hands, with their careful and somewhat hard drawing and terra cotta coloring, suggest at once the name of Leonardo's pupil, Marco d'Oggionno, whereas the inimitably soft and lovely painting of the head and bust, the exquisite subtlety of the expression, the golden glow of the general coloring, can be due only to Leonardo.  The face shows none of the defects of the Louvre picture, which are probably due to clumsy repainting. 
The present owner of the picture acquired his treasure only about a year ago.  He found it hidden in a Somerset mansion where it had been for a century and a half, and whither it had been brought from Italy.
It's an intriguing subject involving a genius and a famous painting that grabbed headlines a century ago and continues to this day.

Written by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

July 30, 2012

One to watch: “The Missing Piece” The Truth About the Man Who Stole the Mona Lisa

by Tanya K. Lervik (ARCA 2011)

On Sunday, July 29th, a private screening of “The Missing Piece” was held in a Georgetown theater for about 100 invitees in Washington, D.C. For some 30 years, filmmaker Joe Medeiros has been captivated by the challenge to clarify the true motivations behind Vincenzo Peruggia’s 1911 theft of the Mona Lisa from the Louvre museum in Paris. In this charming documentary, he shares his journey of discovery with the joyful wit and irreverence which served him well as head writer for The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

Medeiros’s years of research began to coalesce when he discovered that Peruggia’s daughter was still living. He travelled to Italy to interview Celestina Peruggia while simultaneously arranging access to numerous experts and an important trove of primary resources. Of particular interest are letters Peruggia wrote home to his family and the notes from his psychological evaluation after the theft.

The final conclusions reached may not prove surprising to those familiar with the case. However, Medeiros convincingly debunks alternative theories, for example, that a conman mastermind named Eduardo de Valfierno had commissioned the theft in order to make copies to sell to unscrupulous buyers, or that it was really Peruggia’s friend Lancellotti who had committed the theft and hidden the painting. Above all, the film humanizes Vincenzo Peruggia, a man who had become an obscure figure even within his own remaining family. It’s a fascinating look at one of the most infamous art crimes and an engaging account of Medeiros’s personal quest for answers.

The film has recently been entered into numerous film festivals worldwide, the rules of which prohibit the sale of DVDs or public release until after the festival season ends. However, this is definitely a project to watch. Updates are forthcoming on Facebook, Twitter and the project website (

March 5, 2012

The Journal of Art Crime, Fall 2011: Noah Charney on "Lessons from the History of Art Crime"

In the Fall 2011 issue of The Journal of Art Crime, publisher Noah Charney takes a break from his regular column "Lessons from the History of Art Crime" to include a chapter from his recent book, The Thefts of the Mona Lisa: On Stealing the World's Most Famous Painting.  This is the first book published by ARCA Publications, a new endeavor of the Association for Research into Crimes against Art.  All profits from the print edition of this book, which is available on Amazon, go to ARCA and support ARCA's non-profit activities.  The sample chapter includes the story of Picasso and Apollinaire's involvement in theft from the Louvre.  "While they were accused of having stolen the Mona Lisa, of which they were innocent, they were guilty of the theft of other artworks from the Louvre," Charney writes.

Noah Charney is the Founder and President of ARCA and the Editor-in-Chief of The Journal of Art Crime. Recently a Visiting Lecturer at Yale University, he is currently Adjunct Professor of Art History at the American University of Rome. He is the editor of ARCA’s first book, Art & Crime: Exploring the Dark Side of the Art World (Praeger 2009). His latest book is The Thefts of the Mona Lisa: On Stealing the World’s Most Coveted Masterpiece (ARCA Publications 2011).

You may read this excerpt in The Journal of Art Crime by purchasing a subscription to the journal.

September 5, 2011

The Journal of Art Crime, Spring 2011: Noah Charney writes on "Mona Lisa Myths: Dispelling the Valfierno Con" in "Lessons from the History of Art Crime"

In the Spring 2011 issue of The Journal of Art Crime, editor-in-chief Noah Charney writes about "Mona Lisa Myths: Dispelling the Valfierno Con" in his regular column "Lessons from the History of Art Crime."

"The story in question regards a mythical character called Eduardo de Valfierno, an Argentine criminal alleged to have commissioned the theft of the Mona Lisa by Vincenzo Peruggia in 1911 in order to sell six forgeries of it to unsuspecting nouveau-riche criminal collectors," Mr. Charney writes. "The idea was that each of these 'collectors would believe that they had the stolen original, and they would be unable to advertise their acquisition of the Mona Lisa for the very fact it was stolen.

You may read more about this plan and its myth in the Spring 2011 issue of The Journal of Art Crime by subscribing through the ARCA website or by purchasing this issue at

August 21, 2011

"The thefts of the Mona Lisa: On Stealing the World's Most Famous Painting" by Noah Charney

One the 100th anniversary of the theft of Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa from the Louvre, ARCA and Noah Charney have published a new book, "The thefts of the Mona Lisa: on stealing the world's most famous painting". You may find more information about the theft and the book on "100th Anniversary of the Mona Lisa Theft" and in a piece written by Noah in The Los Angeles Times.

Update: Marking the 50th anniversary of the theft of Goya's "The Duke of Wellington", you may find Noah Charney's article on the front page of here.  Mark Durney, author of the blog Art Theft Central, provides a historical review of thefts from the Louvre, some of which you may not have heard about!

August 12, 2011

ARCA Trustees Noah Charney and Anthony Amore Featured on BBC Radio 4's Front Row Program with John Wilson: Mona Lisa, Turner, Goya, Rembrandt

You can listen to John Wilson of BBC Radio 4's program, Front Row, discuss art thefts of Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa and works by Goya, Turner, and Rembrandt here on BBC's website. ARCA Trustees Noah Charney and Anthony Amore, security director of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, are featured on the show. You may read more about this program and the books by the featured speakers on at Noah Charney's column, The Secret History of Art.

June 13, 2011

Monday, June 13, 2011 - ,, No comments

ARCA Staff Profile: Intern Jessica Nielson Editing ARCA's First Title Under Its Own Imprint, "The Thefts of the Mona Lisa: On Stealing the World's Most Famous Painting" by Noah Charney

ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief Catherine Schofield Sezgin 'talks' with ARCA Intern Jessica Nielsen.

Jessica Nielsen
Jessica Nielsen is one of the summer interns for ARCA, working on editing, publishing and publicizing ARCA’s first title under its own imprint, Noah Charney's The Thefts of the Mona Lisa: On Stealing the World’s Most Famous Painting. She has a BA in Art History and History and a Masters of Architecture, and has had varied experiences in arts administration, philanthropy and design. She is currently working on revising her first draft of a novel involving forgery and deception. Jessica lives in Chicago with her husband and two children.

What area of art crime do you enjoy following (reading, researching)?
Jessica: I am most interested in perceptions of value in the art market; how it is established, protected and manipulated, and cases which involve forgery and fraud. I have been reading every thing that I can find about the subject – both fiction and non-fiction for years.
My favorite place to sit in Amelia is the patio of Bar Leonardi. Do you have a favorite place?
Jessica: I don’t have a favorite place yet for sitting. But I took a long walk this morning on the footpath just outside the walls and drank in the early morning sounds, sights and smells and decided that it would be my morning ritual. 
When I first went to Amelia in 2009, I was astounded by the cleanliness of the town and the beauty of the views of the surrounding countryside. What was your initial impression of Amelia? 
Jessica: My first impression was of a historic small and friendly town with a lot of charm. That hasn’t changed. Just doing errands here has been a pleasure. I love living in Italy and have twice lived in Rome ¬– but I’m a city person so living in a small town in the country is a new experience for me – I think I’ll really enjoy it.
What are your expectations for this summer?
Jessica: I am hoping that it will be a fun couple of months of working, learning and meeting new people. I would like Noah’s book to be a success and a strong foundation for more titles to be published by ARCA and I want to find some time to work on my own manuscript too.
And, of course, Amelia has lots of venues for live music. Do you play an instrument or sing?
Jessica: Only at Christmas; then I’ll sit at the piano and play a few carols to get in the holiday spirit.

March 18, 2011

Paris Diary: Mexico's Plea for UNESCO to Provide International Leadership on the 1970 Convention for Countries to Work Together to Stop the Trafficking of Illicit Cultural Objects and the Destruction of Archaeological Sites... and Revisiting Paris' Most Celebrated Stolen Art, the Mona Lisa

PARIS - Thursday morning I walked to Les Deux Magots for breakfast before heading to Le Carrousel du Louvre to purchase a 4-day museum pass. Upon arrival at the St. Germain café, I recognized Dr. Jorge Antonio Sánchez Cordero Davila, director of the Mexican Center for Uniform Law, engaged in serious conversation with two distinguished men. After indulging in a Provançal omelette, I passed them again, still talking, but this time I re-introduced myself. Dr. Sánchez-Cordero, an expert on the panels at the two-day UNESCO meeting on the 1970 Convention anniversary, immediately stood as did his companions and after his customary warm greeting and introduction to his companions (in French), then returned to English to emphasize that Mexico had been impassioned in it's plea to UNESCO to establish a leadership role on the 1970 convention. Further posts here will elaborate on his specific intent but one of the points made at the conference by another expert was that UNESCO's staff of one on the 1970 convention could not be effective by itself. Participants had almost all agreed that communication between countries, the ratification of the agreement by another 73 countries (only 120 of 193 signatories have ratified it), and subsequent awareness and training on the ways to implement ways to stop the trafficking and looting of cultural objects would require more than one UNESCO staff member.

While not everyone ignores Veronese's The Wedding at Cana, many people are just waiting to see The Mona Lisa

The crowd in front of Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa is continuous and slow as so many people want to be photographed with this centuries old celebrity.

Three paintings by Titien are on the other side of the wall of 'La Joconde'
In 1911, a former workman walked out of the Louvre with Leonardo Da Vinci's Mona Lisa, an artwork that had been owned by France since François I had purchased it after the artist had died at his court. The two-year search for the painting resulted in the fame the painting now has today. Even in March, hordes of visitors cram into one room to view 'La Jaconde' even while paintings by Titien on the other side of the wall and a wall-seize canvas of The Wedding at Cana by Veronese remain relatively ignored.

April 15, 2009

New Book on the Theft of the Mona Lisa Misses the Mark—and Reality

The Crimes of Paris: A True Story of Murder, Theft, and Detection by Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler (Little, Brown and Company, 2009) professes to tell the real inside story of the theft of the Mona Lisa and begins by mis-spelling the name of the thief. Vincenzo Peruggia spells his name with two “gs,” as may be seen in the widely-published mug shot taken of him by Italian police, after his arrest as he tried to return the Mona Lisa to Italy, after having stolen it from the Louvre. It is rather baffling, then, that the authors of this new work of non-fiction chose to spell the thief’s name with only one “g.” The odd choices do not stop there.

It is perhaps surprising that the complete story of the theft of the Mona Lisa, certainly the most famous art theft in history, has never been the subject of a book of non-fiction. It is mentioned in a number of works, but an in-depth monograph is still wanting. The Crimes of Paris professes to fill that lacuna, and its publishers were optimistic—an excerpt was featured in the May 2009 issue of Vanity Fair. (Another new book of 2009, Vanished Smile by R. A. Scotti, also hopes to tell the story—we’ll see if the author can do better). While the account of the theft and recovery of the Mona Lisa is accurate and reasonably well-written, the supposed true crime conspiracy that the authors have uncovered and present in their work, regarding forgeries of the Mona Lisa and a mastermind called the Marquis de Valfierno who was behind the whole plot, is a load of hooey. The sole source of this conspiracy, a 1932 article in The Saturday Evening Post by American journalist Karl Decker, was dismissed decades ago by all scholars worthy of the name as a wholesale invention—and one so outrageous that it is difficult to understand how anyone could believe it to be true.

Decker claimed to have met a con man named Eduardo while in Casablanca. Eduardo proceeded to tell Decker about his forgery ring in Buenos Aires and Paris, selling American millionaires copies of paintings that he told them were stolen originals. This Eduardo, who also went under the alias the Marquis de Valfierno, claimed that he had hired Peruggia to steal the original Mona Lisa in order to convince six separate American millionaires that the forged Mona Lisa that they were buying from Valfierno was the stolen original.

The Valfierno story was long ago rejected as one of two things: either a wholesale invention by Karl Decker to sell his story, or a wholesale invention by a con man in Casablanca that pulled the wool down over Mr Decker’s eyes. It is a shame, then, that a work of non-fiction professing to tell the true story behind a famous true crime, should so mislead its readers. Without the addition of myth, the story of the theft of the Mona Lisa is rich and enthralling, with a fabulous cast of characters (including Picasso, Apollinaire, and a fascinating French detective), the backdrop of pre-war Paris and Florence, and ripples felt to this day. For not only was the theft of the Mona Lisa the most famous theft of any object in history, but it also inspired other thefts, altered the concept of what makes a work valuable, and proved to be a turning point in the history of art, of collecting, and of art crime.

The book is worth reading for its solid if stolid account of the theft and recovery of the world’s most famous painting. It also covers the backdrop of Paris in the ‘teens, with a variety of characters sketched into what is more a pastiche of a period in time than a thorough exploration of one crime. In terms of setting the scene, painting the atmosphere of a time and place, the book succeeds nicely.

But it is, of course, the art crime that is of greatest interest to this review. The Hooblers’ tale of the Mona Lisa theft would have done well to have ended without the addition of Valfierno—and it would have been nice to have spelled the name of the protagonist correctly. Trying to shoe-horn a myth into one of history’s great true stories poisons the portions that are true, and cultivates the misconceptions about art crime that already abound.