Thursday, November 19, 2009

Vanished Smile - R.A. Scotti

Another fabulous woman author. Vanished Smile is the story of the shocking theft of the Mona Lisa from the Louvre in 1911. The portrait was eventually returned, undamaged two years later. The self-proclaimed thief brought it to Italy, ostensibly to return her to her homeland. The motivation for the theft is still somewhat of a mystery as the thief was generally regarded to be too stupid to pull it off and had no motive whatsoever.

The book is extremely readable, the characters are familiar and accessible and its hard not to let your imagination run wild. The story of the heist is somewhat of a Thomas Crowne affair, but the really interesting part is the motivation. After all, the Mona Lisa is the most recognizable painting in the world. Its value is essentially nothing, because it couldn't be sold on any recognized market. Scotti recounts a tale involving an expert forger, a charming con man and a few very stupid Americans.

Aside from profiling the various persons involved with the case-including the famous Inspector Clouseau, the guard on duty, the Louvre's head of security and the thief himself- Scotti writes a biography of Mona Lisa herself. From the contradicting theories about the model for the portrait to her journey to France, the various kings who loved her and neglected her, to the high-tech analysis she's received in the Information Age, the book treats the painting as a person with a long and fascinating history. She's a lover, that is for sure.

The robbery exposed huge holes in the Louvre's security, which appears to have been nonexistent. In addition to instigating a huge overhaul of the Louvre, the incident caused real tension in Europe at a time when tension was already high. The French assumed the robbery was the work of the Italians and the Italians blamed the French for the loss of a national treasure.
I recommend this book and intend to read more of her work in the future.

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