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corner ...the suspects in the investigation
Author Seymour Reit tells the story of the investigation: "The French immediately sealed all the borders. They examined every ship leaving, every train coming in and going out. It was impossible to move anything that faintly resembled a work of art out of the country. What they didn't know was that the painting was hidden a mile from the Louvre. And, you know, a lot of people don't realize the Mona Lisa is a fairly small painting. It's about 21 x 30 inches, give or take a fraction, and it's on a wooden panel. It's not on canvas."

"They found the case on the stairwell, the painting missing. They also found a thumbprint on the glass. And this is another crazy wrinkle in this whole case that is hard to believe. They had finger printed everybody at that point – finger printing was also a very recent discovery – and they immediately called in a fingerprint expert who brought his microscope, his magnifying glasses and his dusting power, and he examined the print. And they asked, 'Do you have it on file?' And he said, 'Messieurs, it is a left thumbprint. We keep only right hand prints.' So, there was this perfectly good fingerprint and they had no way of identifying it!"

In the weeks following the theft, authorities employed every possible means to find the elusive Mona Lisa. Rewards were posted: 25,000 francs by the Louvre; 40,000 francs by the magazine L'Illustration; and 5,000 francs by the newspaper, Le Matin, to clairvoyants and fortune tellers to divine her whereabouts with help from "the beyond."
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"Each one came out with an absolute final proof of where the painting was," adds Reit. "'It's been destroyed.' 'It's been burned.' 'It's been hacked to pieces.' 'It's been thrown in the ocean.' And all of them, of course, were wrong."

As Parisians crowded the streets to confirm the incredible news, the rumor mill began to grind. Some speculated that the crime was commissioned by an American millionaire with a bankroll to buy culture at any price, and by any means. Others saw the specter of international political intrigue. "One theory – this was just before World War I – was that it was part of a German plot to discredit France and cause a lot of upset," says Reit. "And, of course, the French newspapers got letters of every kind with every type of bizarre theory."

One of these would be the best – and last – lead detectives would find for two years...
about a famous artist who became a suspect


Mona missing | the crime | the suspects | Mona's identity
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