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Vanished smile: the mysterious theft of Mona…
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Vanished smile: the mysterious theft of Mona Lisa (2009)

by R.A. Scotti

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After listening to this book, I will need to go back to the Louvre to view Mona Lisa - I didn't see her before, since there was so much else to see. Such an interesting chain of events, with people I would never have thought connected (Picasso), and during a time period that I read other books. Great for a road trip. ( )
  sriemann | Aug 11, 2014 |
I enjoyed this book about the theft and return of the Mona Lisa. I liked learning the history of the painting, how it got to France, and where it ended up during the time it was missing. ( )
  krin5292 | Jan 13, 2014 |
I like the story with the history especially about events that I did not know about (the theft of the Mona Lisa in 1911) would be a 3 1/2 if they had that rating somewhat dry in parts. ( )
  lindap69 | Apr 5, 2013 |
Well. I don't know. I'm interested in forgeries and plagiarism and how cultural things attain perceived value - art, music, and so on. One of my co-workers lent me Vanished Smile in exchanged for me loaning her Forged: How Fakes Are the Great Art of Our Age, after I mentioned my interest (and we work in an art museum). I was intrigued to read about the theft of the Mona Lisa in 1911, as I only vaguely knew about it and was interested in learning about museum security 100 years ago and so on.

Vanished Smile delivers on that, but also discusses the state of journalism in 1911, and how detectiving was done. But Scotti writes a digressive book that flutters back and forth between topics and doesn't really talk about the theft itself until the last third. Instead, he builds up to it, I think trying to create the effect of a police investigation or something.

But it didn't really work for me. While I did learn about Picasso and Apollinaire, and even some new things about Leonardo de Vinci, in addition to journalism, museum security, &c., I really wanted to know about the theft itself, and it was frustrating at points that Scotti kept talking about other things instead.

Furthermore, Scotti uses a fairly, well, romantic mode of writing. He includes quite a bit of speculative matter, too, without being entirely clear what was fact and what he was filling in. And I just wanted to know the details of the case. I didn't want rhapsodies about the painting or about how people fall in love with it, or speculation about de Vinci's motives - though, again, I can kind of see how it makes sense if Scotti was trying to present the story similarly to an investigation, with facts and history and conjecture intermingling until the truth comes out.

It's not a bad book, but I think my personal preference is for something more matter-of-fact and organized differently. I may have even liked this one more if it weren't for the constant claims of the Mona Lisa's power of enchantment - maybe it's because I'm a child of the 1980s and she has been a constant of pop culture for me my entire life, but I've never understood the appeal. And the thing about the smile - it's the same as so many other Renaissance portraits, so why is it special here? (I believe her direct gaze is more interesting, and the background, thanks to my art history courses.) That Scotti continually referenced the smile as being so mysterious and enchanting and causing men to fall in love with her grated and made me disinclined to feel generous towards the rest of the book, I'm sure. ( )
1 vote keristars | Dec 26, 2012 |
The theft of the Mona Lisa is something that I am surprised I knew so little about. What a wonderful piece of art, and to think it was pilfered from such a world-renowned museum with so much ease, and still today shrouded in so much mystery. It's truly a remarkable story, without foolish incompetent news reporters like Karl Decker trumping it up with falsified sensationalism.

Scotti's writing is peppered with patches of purple, although such passion is certainly not rare among art enthusiasts and I find it difficult to reproach someone's adoration of such popular work. Still, her frequent and regular musings on the beauty and allure of the painting, while appropriate in lesser proportions, became tiresome. I get it, people love the painting, but I really don't think everyone wept when she was stolen.

Vanished Smile is informative regardless, the theft is a compelling story and the fact that the likes of Pablo Picasso were suspects in the crime makes it all the more intriguing, and I'm glad she discredited the rather silly Valfierno myth, of which I am about to read a (re)fictionalized account of. Maybe there are better books written on the topic, I don't know, but I found it satisfactory. Plus, I bought my hardcover edition for $1. Huray. ( )
2 vote Ape | Feb 7, 2012 |
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Epigraph
The only thing that's important is the legend created by the picture, and not whether it continues to exist itself. - Pablo Picasso
Dedication
For my mother and first reader who slipped away from her own museum August 16, 2007
First words
According to the song, it's not supposed to rain when it's April in Paris, but the day was wet and raw.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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CONTENTS: 
A perfect crime -- The vanishing act -- The hunt -- The blank wall -- Not the usual suspects -- The mystery woman -- A letter from Leonardo -- The sting -- A perfect story -- The prisoner.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0307265803, Hardcover)

Amazon Best of the Month, April 2009: In 1911, Leonardo's da Vinci's Mona Lisa was stolen off its hooks from the Louvre, remaining missing for over two years. Who took the most famous painting in the world? Was it Pablo Picasso, the upstart Spaniard--and modern counterpoint to the Italian master--in a fit of nationalistic pride, or the avant-garde poet Guillaume Apollinaire as an act of artistic revolution? R.A. Scotti's Vanished Smile: The Mysterious Theft of Mona Lisa investigates this largely forgotten caper, and along the way we're treated to a tour of turn-of-the-century Paris, the birth of modern forensics, and a biography of the enigmatic painting itself. To this day the mysterious theft of the painting the French call La Joconde remains unsolved--only Mona Lisa knows, and she's not talking. --Jon Foro

R.A. Scotti on Vanished Smile
Mona Lisa is the most famous face in the world, yet few among the thousands who flock to the Louvre to see her every day know that she was ever stolen. Who pinched Mona Lisa--and why?

The most surprising facts in the case:

1. 98 years ago, Mona Lisa vanished from the wall of the Louvre Museum.

2. No one noticed for more that 24 hours.

3. Pablo Picasso was a prime suspect in the theft.

4. Her mysterious disappearance made Mona Lisa the most famous wanted woman in the world.

4. Mona Lisa remained missing for more than 2 years and was presumed lost forever.

5. A letter signed “Leonardo” led police to the lost painting.

6. Almost 100 years later, the brazen crime remains unsolved. --R.A. Scotti

(Photo © Doug Steel)

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:45:38 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Part love story, part mystery, "Vanished Smile" reopens the case of the most audacious and perplexing art theft ever committed--the theft of Leonardo da Vinci's "Mona Lisa" from the Paris Louvre on August 21, 1911.

» see all 5 descriptions

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