It was a Monday and the Louvre was closed. As was standard practice at the museum on that day of the week, only maintenance workers, cleaning staff, curators, and a few other employees roamed the cavernous halls of the building that was once the home of France’s kings but since the Revolution had been devoted to housing the nation’s art treasures. Acquired through conquest, wealth, good taste, and plunder, those holdings were splendid and vast — so much so that the Louvre could lay claim to being the greatest repository of art in the world. With some fifty acres of gallery space, the collection was too immense for visitors to view in a day or even, some thought, in a lifetime.
Most guidebooks, therefore, advised tourists not to miss the Salon Carré (Square Room). In that single room could be seen two paintings by Leonardo da Vinci, three by Titian, two by Raphael, two by Correggio, one by Giorgione, three by Veronese, one by Tintoretto, and — representing non-Italians — one each by Rubens, Rembrandt, and Velázquez. A stunning display, certainly. But even in that collection of masterpieces, one painting stood out from the rest. That very morning — August 21, 1911 — as the museum’s maintenance director, a man named Picquet, passed through the Salon Carré on his rounds, he pointed out Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, telling a co-worker that it was the most valuable object in the museum. “They say it is worth a million and a half,” Picquet remarked, glancing at his watch as he left the room. The time was 7:20 A.M.
Shortly after Picquet departed the Salon Carré, a door to a storage closet opened and a man (or men, for it was never proved whether the thief worked alone) emerged. He had been in there since the previous day — Sunday, the museum’s busiest, as that was the only day most Parisians had off from work. Just before closing time, the thief had slipped inside the little closet so that he could emerge in the morning without the need to identify himself to a guard at the entrance. There were many such small rooms and hidden alcoves within the seven-hundred-year-old building; museum officials later confessed that no one knew how many.
Dorothy & Thomas Hoobler, The Crimes of Paris: A True Story of Murder, Theft, and Detection.
This week’s Tuesday Teaser is once again chosen with Paris still very much in mind (hope no one minds the overdose of all things French on the blog lately!) :p
The central setting of the story takes place at the heart of Paris, and tells the story of what is perhaps the greatest theft of all time – the taking of the Mona Lisa from the Louvre. The book does look to be very promising, with all the right ingredients to make for a thrilling roller-coaster ride of a tale. I think it might still be worthwhile to consider checking the book out, even if like me, you do not quite get what is it about the lady with the half smile that the world is willing to pay millions for. 😉