On Monday morning, Aug. 21, 1911, inside the Louvre museum in Paris, a plumber named Sauvet came upon an unidentified man stuck in front of a locked door. The man wearing a white smock, like all the Louvre’s maintenance staff, pointed out to Sauvet that the doorknob was missing. The helpful Sauvet opened the door with his key and some pliers. The man walked out of the museum and into the Parisian heatwave. Hidden under his smock was Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa.”
The art theft of the century helped make the Mona Lisa what she is today. The world’s popular newspapers, a new phenomenon in 1911, and the French police searched everywhere for the culprit. At one point they even suspected Pablo Picasso. Only one person was ever arrested for the crime in France: the poet Guillaume Apollinaire. But the police found the thief only when he finally outed himself.