Friday, July 17, 2009

Vanished Smile: The Mysterious Theft of the Mona Lisa

In Paris, in 1911, the greatest crime in art history went unnoticed for more than 24 hours – and then the world mourned the loss of Mona Lisa.

Vanished Smile follows the Mona Lisa from the brush of her inception in Renaissance Florence to the halls of Versailles and finally to the Louvre, where she hung among equals before vanishing in the heat of August and a new century. Her theft ignited public imagination and made headlines as two radical artists – Apollinaire and Picasso – were implicated in the heist. Two years later, in circumstances as mysterious as her disappearance, she returned an icon, her wry smile no longer the sole territory of obsessed artists, megalomaniac art collectors, and besotted admirers, but a social phenomenon and symbol of France.

Scotti paints the Mona Lisa as alluring and aloof in Vanished Smile as she is in real life: a woman around whom the world turns, mirroring the passions and sentiments of her age. She is timeless, and for a time, in an innocent Europe before the First World War, entire nations held their breath for her. Vanished Smile is an entertaining portrait of a masterpiece, and the birth of the modern age.

This review was first published by The Sacramento Book Review, July 2009

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