Simon Kuper, Who Stole the Mona Lisa?
But even before Mona Lisa disappeared she was more than a painting. Leonardo’s feat was to have made her almost a person. “Mona Lisa is painted at eye level and almost life-size, both disconcertingly real and transcendent,” writes Scotti. Many romantics responded to the picture as if to a woman. Mona Lisa received love letters and was given a touch more surveillance than the Louvre’s other works, because some visitors stared at the “aphrodisiac” painting and became “visibly emotional”, writes Coignard. In 1910, one lover had shot himself before her eyes. After the theft, a French psychology professor suggested that the thief might be a sexual psychopath who would enjoy “mutilating, stabbing, defiling” Mona Lisa.Note to myself: Bydan Free [Richard K. Munro], Inner Excellence Matters More than Personal Appearance
The thief turned out to be Vincenzo Peruggia, a 32-year-old Italian who lived in Paris. He was a house painter-cum-glazier. He suffered from lead poisoning. He lived in one room at 5 rue de l’Hôpital Saint-Louis, in a neighbourhood of eastern Paris that even today, a century on, is largely immigrant and not entirely gentrified. The Mona Lisa had spent two years mostly on his kitchen table. “I fell in love with her,” Peruggia said from jail, repeating the romantic cliché. The court-appointed psychiatrist diagnosed him as “mentally deficient”.
Her beauty is lost [as the painting is currently installed]. Unless you are a connoisseur of mob scenes, there is little here to enjoy. You envy Peruggia his time alone with her in his room two miles from here.