Leonardo Da Vinci’s iconic painting, the Mona Lisa, measures just 76 x 53 cm and is owned by the French government. The painting can be found on display in the Louvre. However, on Monday 21st August, during the long hot summer of 1911, it disappeared.
Da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa on wood, not canvas, so the thief had not rolled up the masterpiece. The police found a left hand thumbprint at the scene, but in those days only the prints on the right hand were kept on file. Rewards totalling 80,000 francs were offered, to no avail.
Initially, the French police suspected Pablo Picasso of the theft. He was questioned, but released without charge. Then, two years later, on 10th December 1913, the Mona Lisa reappeared in Florence when a young man, Vincenzo Perugia, tried to sell the painting to an antique dealer for 500,000 lire. The antique dealer summoned the police and they arrested Perugia.
Perugia went on trial in Florence in June 1914. He claimed that he had stolen the Mona Lisa out of patriotic duty. This defence endeared him to the Italian public and he was sentenced to just one year fifteen days imprisonment.