Great artists have always had their fair share of controversies. Owing to their larger-than-life persona, and given the fact that the dead can’t defend themselves, history has allowed colorful stories to develop about these famous personalities. One such insanely famous painter and sculptor, Pablo Picasso, appears to have been entangled in a conspiracy theory that involved the theft of Leonardo Da Vinci’s famous painting: The Mona Lisa.
When the Mona Lisa was stolen from the Louvre Museum on August 21, 1911, Picasso was in the city, and circumstances were such that the law enforcement strongly felt that he was, in some way, connected to the theft. Pablo Picasso had moved to Paris at the turn of the 19th Century.
When in the city of love, he surrounded himself with fellow bohemian artists and poets such as Guillaume Apollinaire and Max Jacobs. They called themselves La Banda Picasso, and together the group would push the boundaries not only of traditional art or stylistic experimentation, but of contemporary culture as well.
During the time the band of merry-men was blissfully roaming the streets; Picasso did not hide his admiration for the Bronze Age Iberian sculptures. Coincidentally, during the same time, the Louvre put on display their primitive Iberian sculptures from the 4th or 3rd century BC. One of those who knew of Picasso’s fondness for the art was Géry Pieret. Pieret, a corrupt man from Belgium, was an ancillary member of La Banda Picasso, serving as Apollinaire’s secretary.
In March of 1907, Pieret had stolen two Iberian sculptures, eventually presenting them to Picasso as a gift. In turn, the grateful Spanish artist paid the Belgian thief a sum of 50 francs apiece, according to Richardson’s A Life of Picasso. A few years of separation later, Pieret stole another sculpture from the woefully guarded Louvre and placed it on his friend and mentor Apollinaire’s mantelpiece.
Enraged, Apollinaire threw Pieret out of his home and the same day, the Mona Lisa was stolen – though not by Pieret. Almost immediately, the Paris-Journal began advertising 50,000 francs for the Mona Lisa’s return, no questions asked. Led by motives of malice towards his former mentor and an eye on the handsome reward, Pieret went to the Paris-Journal with information regarding the stolen statue resting on Apollinaire’s mantelpiece, incriminating the poet for harboring the statuettes from the Louvre.
Fearing arrest and deportation, Apollinaire went to the editor of Paris-Journal to return the statues in return of anonymity, but the editor spilled the beans to the police authorities, who eventually rounded up Apollinaire and Pablo Picasso.
It is said that Pablo Picasso broke down in the court, however, eventually the judiciary system decided that Picasso had nothing to do with the stolen Mona Lisa and let him go for lack of substantial evidence, reported The Daily Beast. As for the actual thief of the Mona Lisa, he was an Italian by the name of Vincenzo Perugia, who was put on trial and sentenced to eight months in prison.
[Image Credit | Emil Lendof / The Daily Beast]