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December 5, 2013

Opening the Mona Lisa at the End of World War II, 1945

Madam Lisa, the most well-known face in art, has had a long and complicated relationship with the Louvre, and has many times been nearly lost to history.

A visitor looked at a photo of the ”Mona Lisa” being unpacked at the end of World War II. (Remy De La Mauviniere/ Associated Press)

The Mona Lisa, or Monna Lisa, as she is sometimes called in Italian, has called the Louvre her home since the early 1900s, but has many times been lost to the museum and very nearly to the world. Stolen from the museum in 1911, the Louvre was closed for an unprecedented full week for investigation. A museum enemy, and even the great Pablo Picasso were suspected of the theft and brought in for questioning, but were found innocent and the painting was considered lost for two years until its recovery.

The masterwork of the Renaissance has been damaged by acid dropped on it, rocks thrown at it, and any number of attempted assaults. During WWII, she was destined for Hitler’s future museum and is rumored to have been kept in an Austrian salt mine along with countless other timeless pieces of art that were later restored to their respective museums.

Return of the Mona Lisa at the end of World War II.

On the eve of World War II, curators at the Louvre swathed the museum’s most priceless painting – the “Mona Lisa” – in layers of waterproof paper, boxed it up, and spirited it to the French countryside for safekeeping. Leonardo da Vinci’s smiling maiden moved another five times during the war before she was brought, safe and sound, back to the Louvre.

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