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Vanished Smile: The Mysterious Theft of the Mona Lisa

3.78  ·  Rating Details ·  2,536 Ratings  ·  275 Reviews
On August 21, 1911, Leonardo da Vinci’s most celebrated painting vanished from the Louvre. The prime suspects were as shocking as the crime: Pablo Picasso and Guillaume Apollinaire, young provocateurs of a new art.

The sensational disappearing act captured the world’s imagination. Crowds stood in line to view the empty space on the museum wall. Thousands more waited, as co
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Paperback, 256 pages
Published April 6th 2010 by Vintage (first published January 1st 2009)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Madeline
Feb 12, 2012 Madeline rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"1911 was a year of grand escapades. In the boatyards of Liverpool, a magnificent new ocean liner was under construction. Its builders boasted that it would be 'unsinkable.' In Antarctica, Captain Robert Falcon Scott was trudging across the frozen plateau to the South Pole, the Union Jack folded in his pack, dreaming of making history, and in Paris, a plan was brewing to pinch the most famous painting in the world. Of these three grand escapades, the first seemed assured of success, the second l ...more
Bill Hall
Apr 12, 2009 Bill Hall rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
“Vanished Smile” is a history of the theft and recovery of the Mona Lisa from the Louvre, but it reads more like a high-quality detective novel. Before reading this book, I had known the bare bones outline of the story—that the world’s most famous painting had been stolen from the wall it had graced for almost a century one day in 1911, and was only recovered after a lengthy absence. Scotti’s narrative fills in the details of a canvas every bit as rich as Leonardo’s own.

The narrative puts us at
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Sarah
Oct 31, 2012 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this book very interesting! I had to read it for my "France in Popular American Culture" course.

I really enjoyed how Scotti made it seem like a mystery novel by displaying clues little by little leading up to the big reveal.
It was a quick, fun read. I think anyone who is interested in France, or Art History would find this book interesting! Although I am not too interested in the latter, France as a whole intrigues me, and the hype around "Mona Lisa" is unmatchable, making the mysterio
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Robert Risher
Oct 09, 2013 Robert Risher rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Scotti achieves near perfection in a book that I anticipated finding little interest but was overwhelmingly surprised with the fluid writing style and thorough research that seemed to cover every question I could surmise about its topic. This is a history book from which many other writers could take notes when it comes to presentation. Its Holmesian mystery was interwoven with facts from every angle that kept me enthralled throughout, and left me curious as to Scotti's other works, which I will ...more
Elizabeth K.
Aug 07, 2009 Elizabeth K. rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2009-new-reads
This is the story of the theft of the Mona Lisa from the Louvre in 1911. It's an interesting series of events, but you can get all the information about it you need from the wikipedia article, which I strongly suggest because the quality of writing in this book is abysmal. The author cannot resist adding flowery, melodramatic, and frequently nonsensical descriptions that practically writhe off the page. The whole thing calls to mind a ninth grader desperately trying to pad an essay.

Here's an exa
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(ha)Ley
First read: 2014
I need to reread this.
Deb
Aug 15, 2011 Deb rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I once viewed Mona Lisa in the Louvre, or, I should say, I caught a glimpse of her behind her protective glass while craning my neck around the heads of people taller than me. It was there, but how anyone could enjoy the experience of viewing it I cannot imagine. But in 1911 in the Louvre, one could get close enough to enjoy the painting - close enough, in fact, to remove it from the wall if one so chose, particularly when the guard was on a lunch break, or when the museum was closed for cleanin ...more
Jeremy
Apr 13, 2009 Jeremy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This is a decent book, reflected by the middling score that I've given it. I guess I could start with the pros, and work my way to the cons.

On the plus side, it's chock full of sensational facts and history, and the author does a fantastic job of bringing to life the period under discussion.
Also, while some may take issue with the casual fictionalizations of the characters and plot points that R.A. Scotti employs, I thought it was really fun, and certainly made it a more entertaining than a ba
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Reinaldo Lourenço
Sep 14, 2016 Reinaldo Lourenço rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lidos-2016
Nao sei se esta informaçao está toda na Wikipedia mas é uma historia interessante de se ler...
Robyn Hawk
Jun 10, 2009 Robyn Hawk rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviews
I picked this book up expecting it to be a bit dry - but - once again R.A. Scotti pulled me into the story as if it were fictionalized.

Very few people who visit the Louvre realize that the Mona Lisa was stolen at one time - people used to come to view the empty space - they were in such disbelief that anyone could commit such a crime!

Vanished Smile is the story of that theft and the involvement of the creative luminaries of that era in the crime!

Although this is a non-fiction accounting of the "
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Tami Stackelhouse
Jun 26, 2012 Tami Stackelhouse rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Tami by: Costco magazine
A must read for anyone who has had the good fortune of visiting the Louvre and seeing Mona Lisa in person. A recommended read even if you haven't.

It was fascinating to me how many things were in play in 1911 when she was stolen, the beginnings of forensics and fingerprinting, who was suspected, the lack of security, etc.

Some critiques suggest this would have been a better book if it had been written as a historical fiction novel. It may be true that it might have made a more satisfying story - w
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Andrea
Jul 07, 2015 Andrea rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: art-books
I loved this book! It really brought Mona Lisa to life for me in so many ways. I love that the story of the theft covered many different eras and even brought in some insight on Picasso. Wonderfully written. I loved the descriptions, especially "...Picasso's gang of painters and poets were the outlaws of traditional art, riding into town like the cowboys of the Wild West to slay the Renaissance gods." And I loved the last three paragraphs...but don't read them first.
Frank Roberts
Jul 25, 2013 Frank Roberts rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
R.A. Scotti is an excellent writer of non-fiction: I enjoyed Sudden Storm immensely, and I really liked Basilica. This was the weakest book from her of the three. While still interesting and informative, it was less compelling. Maybe I just don't get the attraction of La Giaconda.
Sue
Oct 20, 2013 Sue rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Intriguing. Like every book set in Paris, makes you want to book a holiday/move continents/become a detective or art curator immediately.
Margaret
Nov 23, 2015 Margaret rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
why is it that so many authors ruin a good story with bad writing?? honestly, one comparison of the mona lisa to an actual woman was enough. the other eighty or so were redundant.
Converse
Jul 12, 2014 Converse rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, art, crime
On Monday August 22, 2011, Leonardo da Vinci's painting the Mona Lisa was stolen from the Louvre in Paris. Quite a hullabaloo ensued.

The museum was closed to the public on Mondays, and the painting's absence was noticed only on Tuesday when Louis Beroud arrived to continue his hobby of painting a copy of the original, an activity encouraged then by the Louvre. It was not immediately apparent that a theft had occurred, as the museum had no administrative process to track when paintings were remov
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Patricia Kitto
Oct 25, 2016 Patricia Kitto rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Who knew the Mona Lisa was stolen from the Louvre!? Not me until I read this book! It's a well written and informative book. Very enjoyable read!
Brendan
In 1911, Scotti tells us, Harland and Wolff was building the biggest ship known to man, Scott was on his way to the South Pole, and the most audacious heist in art history was in the works. By 1913, only one of the three could have been called a success. When the Mona Lisa went missing in 1911, the whole world went into a tizzy. Her theft revealed the shoddy security policies at the Louvre, the depth of esteem the art world held her in, and the speed with which a rarefied paragon of the art worl ...more
Tim
Aug 30, 2011 Tim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
On August 21, 1911, a 400-year-old matron absconded from Paris’s art trove, the Louvre. Born within relative obscurity, she had been transported across various state lines. Often belittled within Florence’s Medici confines, certainly a visitor in the bathroom of France’s François I and later celebrated in Louis XIV’s bedroom, she became a near-forgotten hostage, chained on the museum’s wall for nearly one hundred years before being liberated.

R.A. Scotti breathes life into a century-old mystery s
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Mary Lou
Feb 10, 2011 Mary Lou rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
Scotti's discussion of the theft of the Mona Lisa is fascinating because it is so well written and because she presents the suspenseful mystery clearly, getting the complicated details across in entertaining and engrossing prose. Using headlines, excerpts of articles and footnotes, she gives a full description of the painting, the Louvre, the investigation, Leonardo’s work, Europe during the early 20th century, and more.

Some of the interesting facts are: “In 1550 the Florentine artist and author
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Todd Stockslager
For a kiss and a smile I'll give mine all to you

Springsteen, in the small classic "Darlington County" quoted above, is willing to give away his mythical piece of the World Trade Center (another landmark piece of art stolen, this one never to be recovered) for a kiss, a smile, and a promise of a little bit more. The Mona Lisa plays her hand from the same deck of cards, with that famously-cool smile promising a little bit more than she could ever deliver, and willing men lining up to take the losi
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Anna Ligtenberg
Jan 16, 2013 Anna Ligtenberg rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
ISBN 0307265803 - Old and unsolved mysteries have a strange attraction for me, as a reader, and I believe that, while reading Vanished Smile, I've figured out the reason: there's a feeling that, if you read enough, you might be able to solve it from your chair. This makes no sense for two reasons, of course. One, people who solve mysteries for a living haven't been able to solve it. Two, and this is going to surprise some folks, the theft of the Mona Lisa from the Louvre was solved 95 or so year ...more
Liz Nutting
The crime: A daring, daylight theft of the world's most famous painting from the world's most famous museum. The chief suspect: A gifted but struggling young painter who will one day define his artistic generation. The detective: The foremost criminologist of his day and one of the founders of forensic science. Add political rivalries that go back centuries and will soon erupt into world war and you have a recipe for a pot-boiling thriller that would make Dan Brown proud.

Yet, despite being penn
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Michelle
Interesting (and little-known) true story about the theft of the Mona Lisa from the Louvre in the early 20th century, and Apollinaire and Picasso's involvement. The voice is beautiful, and much of the time I felt I was reading a novel, not a book of history. Unfortunately, the book suffers from poor organization that makes it lag in the middle and end with a soft thud instead of a bang.

The beginning reads like a mystery. The guards at the Louvre have just discovered that the Mona Lisa is missin
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Anna
Sep 04, 2009 Anna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2009
A very interesting book that, again, I would never have read were it not for a book club. Scotti begins with the facts: a Louvre guard, sleepy and suffering from heartburn after a heavy lunch, lounges on the job one Sunday afternoon. He closes the place down, rests for a day (the Louvre is closed on Mondays), and on Tuesday morning returns to find an empty spot on the wall where the Mona Lisa once hung. How was this great art theft perpetrated? The author uses this question to segue into a histo ...more
Thomas Paul
Nov 18, 2011 Thomas Paul rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It’s 1911. A hot summer’s day in Paris. The guard at the Louvre is asked where the Mona Lisa is by an avid fan of the painting who is working on a copy. The guard replies that he does not know, perhaps it is being photographed. A few hours later with the painting still missing, panic spreads through the Louvre as it is suddenly realized that the master work of Leonardo da Vinci has been stolen. Pablo Picasso would be questioned in the theft and a friend of his arrested. The Mona Lisa would remai ...more
Rose
Jun 18, 2009 Rose rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The theft of the Mona Lisa is like the sinking of the Titanic and the first trans-Atlantic phone call: you're conscious of it, even if you don't know the particulars.

R.A. Scotti has written an excellent introduction to the crime that captured the world's imagination in 1911. When the beloved Mona Lisa disappeared from the Louvre, thousands of shocked Parisians flocked to the museum to stare at the empty space where Leonardo's purloined masterpiece had hung. They left flowers and notes, and pray
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Zach
Interesting, readable take on a suprisingly less known event in history.

The author does a good job of setting the scene and creating interesting characterizations of actual people and events. The author also conveys the unique time--the transition to the more modern age/rise of technology ie the technology the police attempted to use.


Also the political and social movements involved--tension between Italy and France as well as Germany on the eve of World War II, as well as the rebellious art mo
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Doug Beatty
Mar 25, 2010 Doug Beatty rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: true-crime
I listened to this title on audio, and while I enjoyed some of it, the crime and the resolution of the crime are anti-climatic. We house the book in the true crime section of the library, because the apparent focus of the book is the theft of the Mona Lisa, but the author shares quite a bit of other facts and other bits of history along the way. I now know more about the Mona Lisa than anybody ever really needs to know, and sometimes I felt that the book meandered away from its main focus to cov ...more
Hotavio
Feb 20, 2010 Hotavio rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Vanished Smile was tremendously enjoyable for me. Usually it takes me a few weeks to read a book, but this one took less than a week. That being said, I would venture to say that it is highly readable, if not relatively short.

In 1911 the painting disappeared, causing widespread shock. Suspects ranged from wealthy Americans such as J.P. Morgan, to the Germans, to Picasso and his gang of artists. A few suspects, such as Picasso and Guillarme Apollonaire are arrested and their integrity scrutinized
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Art Crime: Vanished Smile: The Mysterious Theft of Mona Lisa 6 5 Feb 25, 2012 10:14AM  
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