How Many Times Has the Mona Lisa Been Stolen?

Are you one of those who has been entranced by the enigmatic smile of the Mona Lisa? Or are you just curious about its history and the controversies surrounding it? Well, you’ve come to the right place! Today, I’ll delve into one of the most asked questions about this masterpiece: how many times has the Mona Lisa been stolen?

The Mona Lisa was stolen once, on August 21st, 1911. It was stolen by Vincenzo Peruggia, a former employee of the Louvre who believed that the painting should be returned to Italy, it’s country of origin. The painting was missing for two years and was later found in Peruggia’s possession. It was returned to the Louvre, and Peruggia was arrested and sentenced to prison.

In the rest of the blog, I will walk you through the details surrounding this heist and the other controversies related to the Mona Lisa.

The History and Theft of the Mona Lisa 

The Mona Lisa, also known as La Gioconda, was painted by Leonardo da Vinci in the early 1500s, during the Renaissance period. 

The painting was first displayed in the Louvre Museum in Paris in 1797 and quickly became an object of fascination and admiration. Its value increased over time, and it’s now considered one of the most valuable pieces of art in the world. And with that comes trouble! 

The painting has become an object of many art heists and attempted thefts. However, the painting’s value and fame have made it difficult to steal. The museum has implemented several security measures to ensure the safety of the artwork.

The Heist

The heist of the Mona Lisa is one of the most famous art thefts in history. The painting was taken from the Salon Carré in the Louvre, where it had been on display for several years.

In 1911, a former employee of the Louvre Museum, Vincenzo Peruggia, managed to steal the painting. Peruggia had worked on the construction of the glass case that housed the painting and was able to slip in unnoticed on a Monday, the museum’s day off. 

He hid in a closet until the museum closed, and then he took the painting off the wall and walked out with it under his coat. The painting was removed from its frame and taken away. The theft was not discovered until the next day when the empty frame was found.

The investigation was led by the French police, and the theft was widely reported in the press. The police interviewed many suspects. But it wasn’t until two years later that the painting was discovered. Peruggia, who had been working at the Louvre when the painting was stolen, was arrested for the theft. 

Are you wondering what he was planning to do with the painting? He had taken the painting to Italy, where he hoped to sell it to a museum.

The Mona Lisa returned to the Louvre in 1913, and since then, it has been one of the most popular attractions in the museum. The theft of the Mona Lisa has inspired many books, movies, and television shows, and it remains a fascinating story to this day.

Security Measures to Protect the Mona Lisa

After the theft of the Mona Lisa in 1911, the Louvre implemented a number of security measures to protect the painting. These include:

1. Bulletproof Glass 

The painting is now protected by bulletproof glass, which was installed in 1956.

2. 24-hour Surveillance 

The painting is monitored around the clock by security guards and cameras.

3. Restricted Access 

The painting is now displayed in a climate-controlled enclosure, and visitors are only allowed to view it from behind a barrier.

These measures have proven effective, and the Mona Lisa has not been stolen or damaged since the theft in 1911.

Vandalism of the Mona Lisa

From the woman who threw a coffee cup at her to the guy who sprayed her with red paint, the Mona Lisa has seen her fair share of vandalism. Let’s take a look at some of the most notable incidents, shall we?

1. The Coffee Cup Incident

In 2009, a Russian woman threw a ceramic coffee cup at the Mona Lisa while it was on display at the Louvre. The cup shattered on the bulletproof glass that protects the painting. But thankfully, the painting itself was unharmed. 

The woman, who was reportedly upset about being denied French citizenship, was arrested and charged with “voluntary damage with a weapon.” Well, I guess you could call a coffee cup a weapon if you tried hard enough!

2. The Rock Incident

Yes, you heard that right. Someone actually attacked the Mona Lisa with a rock! The year was 1956, and the painting was on display at the Louvre museum in Paris. 

A man named Ugo Ungaza Villegas decided that it would be a great idea to hurl a rock at the painting. And that’s exactly what he did. Thankfully, the rock only chipped the paint and didn’t cause any major damage. 

Lucky for you and me, the restoration team managed to save the painting. The incident prompted the Louvre to step up its security measures. Result? The painting is now protected by bulletproof glass and a team of guards. And boy, the good it did! You will discover it now!

3. The Cake Incident

On May 30th, 2022, a climate change activist disguised as an elderly woman attempted to vandalize the Mona Lisa in the Louvre Museum in Paris. 

The man, who was wearing a wig and lipstick, approached the painting in a wheelchair before throwing a piece of cake at the artwork’s protective glass encasement. 

Thankfully, the painting was not damaged due to its bulletproof glass. And the protester was quickly apprehended by security guards.

4. The Tokyo Incident 

When the Mona Lisa was on tour in Japan in 1974, it was briefly displayed at the Tokyo National Museum. And here, a woman in a wheelchair attacked it in protest of the museum’s inaccessibility. 

In spite of the red paint being sprayed on the artwork, only the glass case was damaged, which allowed the artwork to remain in its original state.

Final Thoughts

So there you have it, folks – the Mona Lisa has only been stolen once. But it has been the subject of several attempted thefts and acts of vandalism. 

While these incidents have caused damage to the painting, the Mona Lisa remains one of the most famous and beloved works of art in the world. 

If you’re ever in Paris, be sure to visit the Louvre and see the painting for yourself (from a safe distance, of course!).