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Theft of Mona Lisa: Topics in Chronicling America

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.


Mona Lisa is found and the culprit admits to stealing her to avenge Italy. December 13, 1913. Evening Star (Washington, DC), Image 4. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers.

“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.
1912-1913 As the news industry reports the “Mona Lisa’s” theft, she gains world fame.
October 1913 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.