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August 21, 1911: Who Stole the Mona Lisa? 2011/08/20

Posted by nydawg in Archives, Best Practices, Intellectual Property, Media.
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A couple weeks ago, I read this fascinating article on another “Crime of the Century.”  I don’t think I had ever heard about this before, but it’s the story of how Pablo Picasso, among others, was accused of stealing the Mona Lisa!

Leonardo da Vinci's La Joconde

“On Monday morning, Aug. 21, 1911, inside the Louvre museum in Paris, a plumber named Sauvet came upon an unidentified man stuck in front of a locked door. The man—wearing a white smock, like all the Louvre’s maintenance staff—pointed out to Sauvet that the doorknob was missing. The helpful Sauvet opened the door with his key and some pliers. The man walked out of the museum and into the Parisian heatwave. Hidden under his smock was Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa.  The art theft of the century helped make the Mona Lisa what she is today. The world’s popular newspapers—a new phenomenon in 1911—and the French police searched everywhere for the culprit. At one point they even suspected Pablo Picasso. Only one person was ever arrested for the crime in France: the poet Guillaume Apollinaire. But the police found the thief only when he finally outed himself.”

So this led me to wonder all kinds of archival and records management questions, not least of which are:
1) what are the dimensions? 2) what material is used?  3) why did Kafka visit? 4) how could it happen?

Well, you should read this hard-to-believe, but true!, riveting story from Slate.

So how does it relate to the Digital Dark Ages?  “After the theft, the French journalist Francis Charmes would comment: “La Joconde was stolen because nobody believed she could be.” and here’s a good one-liner song lyric related to security: “The painting was celebrated in new popular songs (“It couldn’t be stolen, we guard her all the time, except on Mondays”).

and can you do much better than a ransom note questioning the ownership: “The author, who signed himself “Leonardo”, wrote: “The stolen work of Leonardo da Vinci is in my possession. It seems to belong to Italy since its painter was an Italian.”” [is that much different from saying, “it deserves to be seen on a Windows 98 machine? . . . ”

You could even make the argument that this touches on some of the earliest digital forensics!  “Unfortunately, the famous detective Alphonse Bertillon—the real-life French Sherlock Holmes—who was on the Mona Lisa case, only catalogued the right fingerprints of suspects. Peruggia had left his left print on the Louvre’s wall. ”  Get it?
Digital = fingers

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