MOST EXPENSIVE PAINTINGS EVER STOLEN

Paint is a wonderful substance because it allows people to create wonderful works of art that give us a sense of our history. Thus, good art sells and great art often gets stolen. We often hear through the news about paintings by famous artists being auctioned off at extraordinary prices  - in the hundreds of thousands and sometimes, millions of dollars. We also receive through the news that some of the most renowned paintings have been stolen in different parts of the world. Perhaps, some people are just so obsessed with getting those paintings for monetary gain thinking they can get away with it. Thanks to hardworking law enforcement agencies around the world, those masterpieces have been traced, recovered and returned to the place where they truly belong.

However, The Mona Lisa remains probably the most well known painting ever to have been created and sits proudly amongst the many great achievements of Leonardo Da Vinci, which stretched beyond painting. The Mona Lisa was a 16th-century oil painting portrait by Leonardo da Vinci during the Italian Renaissance. The subject of the painting was Lisa Gherardini, wife of Francesco del Giocondo, the French government now owns it and stores in the Louvre in Paris. Lisa del Giocondo was a member of the Florentine Gherardini family and also wife to silk merchant Francesco del Giocondo. The birth of their son, Andrea, plus their move to a new home were the reason for commissioning the painting.

Thus on Monday, August 21, 1911, the world’s most famous work of art Leonardo da Vinciʼs Mona Lisa was stolen from the Louvre museum in Paris. That morning, many museum employees noticed that the painting was not hanging in its usual place. But, they assumed the museum photographer had taken the painting off the wall and was shooting pictures of it up in his studio. By Tuesday morning, when the painting hadn’t been returned, and it was not in the photographer’s studio, museum officials were notified. The painting was gone! The police were contacted immediately, and they set up headquarters in the museum curator’s office. The entire museum was searched from top to bottom. This took a week because of the size of the Louvre: a 49-acre building that runs along the Seine river for 2,200 feet. The only thing a detective found was the heavy frame that once held the Mona Lisa. It was discovered in a staircase leading to a cloakroom.

Hence, many people were questioned about the theft from museum employees to people who worked or lived nearby. Perhaps somebody might have seen someone acting “suspiciously?” The police even questioned Pablo Picasso. Picasso had previously bought two stone sculptures from a friend named Pieret. Pieret had actually stolen these pieces from the Louvre months before the Mona Lisa was stolen. Luckily, the painting was recovered 27 months after it was stolen. An Italian man named Vincenzo Perugia tried to sell the work to the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy for $100,000. Perugia claimed he stole the work out of patriotism. He didnʼt think such a work by a famous Italian should be kept in France. What Perugia didn’t realize was that while the Mona Lisa was probably painted in Italy, Leonardo took it with him to France and sold it to King Francis I for 4,000 gold coins.

Besides the Mona Lisa theft, the most expensive art robbery in history is the March 18, 1990, robbery of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, according to the FBI. In that job, thieves made off with almost $300 million in paintings, including works by Vermeer, Rembrandt and Monet.

Often, it seems that the organization of theft is rarely accompanied by an equal amount of planning about what to do once the criminals have the painting in their hands. It would be nearly impossible to sell these works on the open market.

For that reason, many art thefts end with the thieves trying to sell the paintings back to the people or institution they stole it from. In other cases, if the paintings aren't recovered, the thieves either destroy the paintings to cover their tracks, trade the paintings for guns or drugs on the international black market or sell them to unsuspecting low-level dealers as imitations paintings.

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