August 21: The Mona Lisa Is Stolen

Mona_Lisa_stolen-1911On the evening of August 21st, 1911, the world’s most famous painting was stolen. The next morning, the painter Louis Béroud arrived at Paris’ Louvre Museum and found Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa was not on display, instead the only thing on the wall were the four iron pegs the normally held the painting.

Béroud checked with a guard, who told him that the painting was probably being photographed. Later, Béroud consulted the head of the museum, who said that the painting was not being photographed and that it should be hanging on the wall, at which point both men realized that the Mona Lisa had in fact been stolen.

The Louvre was immediately put on lockdown, and museum guards and Paris police searched and questioned every visitor. Afterwards the museum was closed for a week as investigators searched every inch of the museum grounds in the hope of finding the painting. When the search turned up empty handed and no likely suspects were found, the famed painting was considered lost.

Mercifully, two years later the Mona Lisa was recovered when Louvre employee Vincenzo Peruggia was caught trying to sell it to the directors of Florence’s Uffizi Gallery. It turns out that Peruggia was an Italian patriot and had long believed that as Da Vinci’s masterpiece was an Italian painting, it belonged in a museum in its native land. The theft itself was fairly simple: Peruggia merely entered the Louvre during normal business hours and then hid in a broom closet. After removing the picture from its frame, he just walked out of the museum with the Mona Lisa rolled up under his coat. He then hid the painting in his Paris apartment.

With the painting secured, the Louvre sent it on an exhibition tour of Italian museums before returning to its home at the Louvre. Peruggia would spend six months in jail, but in some corners of Italy he was viewed as a national hero for his attempt to bring the Mona Lisa back.

You don’t have to travel all the way the way to Paris to enjoy the Mona Lisa, instead you can just sit back at home and enjoy a Mona Lisa cocktail. This bewitching little drink is made with the potent (typically 110 proof) French herbal liqueur Green Chartreuse. Green Chartreuse has a nice blend of herbal, floral and honey notes that compliment the orange juice in this drink. Best of all, the drink’s combination of liquids give it a greenish-yellow tint similar to the colors used in Da Vinci’s painting.

Mona Lisa

  • 1 1/2 ounces Green Chartreuse
  • 3 ounces orange juice
  • 2 dashes Aromatic Bitters

Shake these ingredients with ice in a cocktail shaker, and then strain into an ice-filled highball glass. Top off with tonic water and garnish with an orange wedge.

Tomorrow: The queen of the round table.


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