Mona Lisa banner map
corner ...how Mona Lisa was finally found
On December 10th, 1913, a mustachioed young man arrived in
Geri
Florence and visited the offices of Alfredo Geri, an antique dealer on the Via Borgognissanti. He quietly presented himself as Vincenzo Leonard, a self-proclaimed Italian patriot who said he had brought the Mona Lisa with him from his home in Paris in order to restore her to the country of her birth. Leonard politely requested a reward of five hundred thousand lire, and assurance that the painting never be returned to France. Though Geri was tempted to dismiss the man as a fraud, he was intrigued, and made arrangements to view the painting at the man's hotel room.
Hotel Tripoli Italia

"I called my friend Giovanne Poggi, Director of the Uffizi Gallery," wrote Geri, "and together we went to view the painting in the stranger's room at the Hotel Tripoli. As we stood watching, the man opened a trunk full of wretched belongings. Then he took out an object wrapped in red cloth, and to our astonished eyes the divine Gioconda appeared, intact and wonderfully preserved."

Recognizing the official Louvre museum seals on the back of the panel, Poggi told Leonard that the painting would have to be examined by authorities at the Uffizi to verify its identity, and Leonard agreed to wait in his room until this could be done. Barely containing their excitement, Geri and Poggi left with theportrait and hurried to the museum. There Poggi and his staff of experts examined the painting inch-by-inch, comparing it to photographs sent from the Louvre. Hours later, they confirmed its authenticity.

Perugia mug shot
At that point, Florence's chief of police and several detectives were dispatched to the Hotel. Quietly, and politely, the thief – whose real name was Vincenzo Perugia – submitted to arrest. After two agonizing years of false leads and dead-end trails, the Mona Lisa had at last been found.

For the next two months, the Mona Lisa enjoyed a triumphant tour through the major cities of her homeland, including Rome and Milan, where sixty thousand Italians crowded into the Brera museum for a last good-bye. She was then carefully packaged for the return trip to France, escorted by a convoy of politicians, museum officials and policemen. On arrival at the Louvre, she was subjected to another battery of tests, including x-rays and a painstaking photographic analysis of the tiny cracks in the painting's varnish.
more about verifying the painting's authenticity
On Sunday, January 4th, 1914, the Mona Lisa was ceremoniously restored to her rightful place in the Salon Carré, and Perugia was brought to trial in Florence.
more about Perugia and his trial

Mona missing | the crime | the suspects | Mona's identity
Leonardo's technique | myth of Mona Lisa | Mona's return | timeline

Mona Lisa
detail from Guernica
Lilies of the Valley Faberge Egg
Hope Diamond
Taj Mahal
scene from Borobudur

Treasures Homepage
| The Series | Education | Home Video | Soundtrack
Crossword Puzzle | Producers' Notebook | Site Map