NY Journal of Books

“As Luke [the protagonist] dives farther into his ancestor’s mind, we dive with him, hoping to exonerate the simple crook while admiring his bravado. We also take pause to consider complex questions about the value of art for the individual as well as for society.”

In 1911, a Louvre worker took the Mona Lisa off the wall and absconded with it. Vincenzo Perrone kept the painting for more than two years. After returning to Italy, he contacted authorities, claiming he had committed an act of nationalism by bringing the painting back to the home of its creator, Leonardo da Vinci. These facts are documented in multiple sources, including the 2012 Joe Medeiros film The Missing Piece: Mona Lisa, Her Thief, The True Story.

Writer and artist Jonathan Santlofer uses this robbery as the backdrop for his new novel. He creates a fictional grandson protagonist, Luke Perrone, and sends him on a quest to find the missing pieces of the story. Perrone’s initial goal is simple: He wants to learn about his notorious grandfather and his aspirations. An important question nags Luke. Is the Louvre portrait the true painting, or is it a clever fake created by scoundrels who persuaded the museum worker to steal the painting in the first place?

by D.R. Ransdell
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