Theft of the Mona Lisa
Valfierno's account relayed by reporter Karl Decker, in The Saturday Evening Post in 1932. According to Decker, Valfierno had provided details of the theft in confidence; to be published only after his death.
According to that account, in 1910, Valfierno had conspired with Chaudron to steal the Mona Lisa and produce copies of the painting which would then be sold to private buyers. The plan had been to sell each copy as the "original" while the location of the real painting was unknown.
Chaudron, "spent the winter of 1910 creating clones of Leonardo's great portrait" while Valfierno made arrangements to steal the real painting. In the early hours of 21 August 1911, Louvre employee Vincenzo Peruggia and two accomplices carried the Mona Lisa out of the museum covered in a painter's smock.
6 Chaudron copies had already been sent to the United States ahead of the theft and while the stolen original remained in France, Valfierno followed his fakes and sold each for up to US$300,000. The original remained hidden for two years until Peruggia, presenting himself as Leonardo Vincenzo, tried to sell it in Florence, Italy. A museum administrator there was suspicious, reported the attempted sale and Peruggia was arrested. The original Mona Lisa was returned to the Louvre in 1913.
According to Valfierno's account, Chaudron retired to the countryside only months after the theft and the completion of the forgeries. He continued to produce forgeries of other artists' work but never to the same scale as his work related to the Mona Lisa theft. As Valfierno's account was only released in 1932 (some years after Chaudron's death), the forger was never arrested or tried and his role in the theft was effectively unknown during his lifetime.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Mona Lisa.|
- The Lost Mona Lisa by R. A. Scotti (Random House, 2010)
- Leonardo's Lost Princess: One Man's Quest to Authenticate an Unknown Portrait by Leonardo Da Vinci by Peter Silverman & Catherine Whitney (John Wiley & Sons, 2011)
- The Man Who Stole the Mona Lisa Robert Noah (St. Martin's Press, 1998)
- The New Encyclopedia of American Scandal by George C. Kohn (Infobase Publishing, 2001)
- Leonardo. Ediz. inglese by Enrica Crispino (Giunti Editore, 2002)