In 1911, Mona Lisa becomes the world's most famous missing painting. It was returned two years later. This guide provides access to materials related to the “theft of Mona Lisa” in the Chronicling America digital collection of historic newspapers.
Chronicling America is a searchable digital collection of historic newspaper pages from 1777-1963 sponsored jointly by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress.
Included in the website is the Directory of US Newspapers in American Libraries, a searchable index to newspapers published in the United States since 1690, which helps researchers identify what titles exist for a specific place and time, and how to access them.
“The most colossal theft of modern times,” resulted in Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” becoming the most colossal art of all times. In the early morning of August 21, 1911, former Louvre employee, Vincenzo Perugia, made off with the “Mona Lisa,” with hopes to return the painting to her rightful home, Italy. This act would soon become one of the largest features in reporting history, rendering the “Mona Lisa” world-renown. Read more about it!
The information in this guide focuses on primary source materials found in the digitized historic newspapers from the digital collection Chronicling America.
The timeline below highlights important dates related to this topic and a section of this guide provides some suggested search strategies for further research in the collection.
August 21, 1911
Reports from Paris, France that the “Mona Lisa,” painted by the famous Leonardo da Vinci was stolen from the Louvre.
As the news industry reports the “Mona Lisa’s” theft, she gains world fame.
Authorities at the Louvre are taking heavier precautious to safeguard other famous works.
December 12, 1913
The “Mona Lisa” was recovered in Florence, Italy at the arrest of her thief, Vincenzo Perugia, who claims he was avenging Italy.
June 5, 1914
The court in Florence, Italy gave Vincenzo Perugia a “very light sentence,” which was one year and fifteen days.
February 8, 1919
Newspapers claim that the “mysterious disappearance” of the “Mona Lisa” was “the most colossal theft of modern times,” rendering the painting its world fame.