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Vanished Smile: The Mysterious Theft of the Mona Lisa

3.76 of 5 stars 3.76  ·  rating details  ·  2,083 ratings  ·  256 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
Paperback, 256 pages
Published April 6th 2010 by Vintage (first published January 1st 2009)
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"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
“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
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
Elizabeth K.
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
Robert Risher
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
Robyn Hawk
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 "
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
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
Tami Stackelhouse
Jun 26, 2012 Tami Stackelhouse rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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
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
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
What is it about the Mona Lisa that makes her the media sensation she’s been for centuries? R.A. Scotti’s book, titled Vanished Smile: The Mystery of the Mona Lisa, attempts to answer that question.

The book centers on the theft of the Mona Lisa from the Louvre in 1911, and Scotti uses her crime-writer skills to build a past, present, and future for perhaps the most famous smile in the world. Pretty much everyone in the art world got involved, including an attempt to pin the theft on Pablo Picass
Frank Roberts
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.
Disappointed to learn that the creative and thoughtful writer R.A. Scotti will not grace us with another published piece. She is an exquisite writer who not only has a knack for telling an engaging story, she uses a wide variety of structure and surprise in her word selections. This is a thoroughly engaging tale of a crime and its unresolved mystery with historical certainties (or lack thereof) teased out inthe most pertinent areas. I learned about Leonardo da Vinci, the uniqueness of his artist ...more
Intriguing. Like every book set in Paris, makes you want to book a holiday/move continents/become a detective or art curator immediately.
Did you know the Mona Lisa was stolen and missing? I didn't. This is the fascinating account of events from the day it went missing in August 1911 until it was recovered in December 1913. For over two years, the Mona Lisa was missing from the Louve. Picasso and his friends were initially accused; and one of his friends was imprisoned. Finally, when Mona Lisa was found, Vincenzo Peruggia was brought to trial for the theft. But even today, questions still surround the theft. Who was actually invol ...more
Writer's Relief
Much more than an investigation into the most famous art heist in history, VANISHED SMILE goes deep into the world of 1911-1914 France. Scotti considers multiple suspects (including Pablo Picasso!) and how they might have pulled off the perfect crime—stealing the Mona Lisa. He also delves into what makes the Mona Lisa so different from da Vinci’s other work. Who was the model for the painting? And just what was she smiling about? The possible answers to these questions are just as compelling as ...more
"The world interfered." This is a phrase that Ms. Scotti writes about three quarters of the way through the book and, in just three words, encompasses the entire scandal of the theft of Mona Lisa, told so eloquently and wonderfully in this book. When the Mona Lisa was stolen, the entire world was shocked and taken under her spell even more than they had been when she was hanging on the wall of the Louvre. The painting, her theft, and the events that ensued as a result entranced people almost to ...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
I have always found the Mona Lisa intriguing for several reasons two being Leonardo was my favorite renaissance artist and my birth day is August 21. The book is an interesting romp through the history of the Mona Lisa its theft and the importance it has played in history. What I found interesting was the different people that have coveted Mona Lisa and the effect she still has on people. She instills in people a devotion that leads them to shower her with flowers and hand written notes of adora ...more
This was a fairly interesting book in that it covered a lot of ground regarding the history of the painting, the investigation, eventual recovery, etc. If anything, it piqued my interest in various topics - now I want to read the biography of Picasso, and about American journalism in the 1930's for example - Scotti writes about many different topics but doesn't delve too deeply into them, which makes sense considering this is a book about the theft of the Mona Lisa, but still leaves me with that ...more
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
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
Anna Ligtenberg
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
Thomas Paul
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
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
I loved this book! Although, now I am thinking that I am done reading books about museum thefts. Two is enough. But - this story was fascinating, and I had known nothing about it. It is the true story of the 1911 theft of Mona Lisa from the Louvre. There is no doubt that the theft occurred, but many doubts as to how and why. At that time, security in museums was quite lax. The theft wasn't even noticed for a day. Picasso was even initially implicated in the theft! (and what a great quote of his ...more
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
I love historical non-fiction that moves quickly and is written well, and I am infatuated with Vanished Smile. R. A. Scotti writes so well with smooth transitions and descriptive narrative. It didn't hurt that I thought the subject matter was fascinating: the book focuses on the 1911 theft of the Mona Lisa from the Louvre. It was missing for over 2 years - I should say that again - the Mona Lisa was stolen and missing for 2 YEARS! Scotti fills her book with details surrounding the theft, the his ...more
Mary Lou
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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Art Crime: Vanished Smile: The Mysterious Theft of Mona Lisa 6 5 Feb 25, 2012 10:14AM  
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