Stealing the Mona Lisa: What Art Stops Us From Seeing [Darian Leader] on *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. When the Mona Lisa was stolen. Stealing the Mona Lisa [Darian Leader] on *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. When the Mona Lisa was stolen from the Louvre in by. Darian Leader. · Rating details · 90 ratings · 9 reviews. When the Mona Lisa was stolen from the Louvre in , it was twenty-four hours before anyone .

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When the Mona Lisa went missing init took 24 hours for anyone to realise that it wasn’t there. The first attendant to spot the space on the wall assumed it had been taken down to be photographed.

Another thought its moan was a security precaution. A third was discovered beneath a parasol, asleep. The alarm was finally raised by a painter who arrived to make a copy of the world’s most famous portrait and discovered four empty pegs. The motive for the theft was never fully clear.

Stealing the Mona Lisa: What Art Stops Us from Seeing – Darian Leader – Google Books

The culprit, a penniless house-painter named Vincenzo Perugia, had strolled out of the Louvre with the Mona Lisa under his smock and taken the bus home. When he finally exposed himself by offering the panel to a Florentine art dealer two years later, it appeared that the scheme was rooted in a muddled sense of patriotism.

Perugia believed he was returning Napoleonic loot, unaware that Leonardo had mpna the painting to France for presentation to Francis I.

But if Perugia’s escapade was far from the perfect crime, it could be interpreted as the perfect work of modern art. Perugia bequeathed the Louvre an empty space that could have been entitled “Missing Mona Lisa”.

Hordes of spectators, Franz Kafka among them, thronged to observe the space where the painting had been. Mona is back now, of course, smiling wanly through a carapace of yellowing varnish and bullet-proof glass.


Stealing the Mona Lisa

But the empty space behind her still exists – conceptually, at least lisaa in the minds of psychologists, whose inclination is to look for what can’t be seen. James Elkins has traced the propensity of artworks to elicit tears throughout the ages, and wonders if we have developed into such emotional arthritics that we will weep copiously over the schmaltziest books and movies, but remain stoically dry-eyed in front of paintings.

Darian Leader uses the theft of the Mona Lisa as a springboard for a discussion about what is missing in art. Both utilise their armoury of psycho-tools to demonstrate that images are a veil disguising subconscious phenomena we’d rather not see. It sets Elkins off on a vain hunt to find one art historian who has cried in front of a painting, and Leader dariann a mission to expose the Mona Lisa’s willy.

But his conclusions on art – which are basically Freud’s, as one might tell them to a beginner in the pub – can seem a little quaint and even perverse. Leader points out that Freud invariably turned to art whenever he faced a clinical impasse.

A year before the Mona ,eader was stolen, Freud published a short book about Leonardo in which he advanced the theory that the Mona Lisa’s smile evoked “the bliss and rapture which had once played on his mother’s lips as she fondled him”.

Few art historians or psychoanalysts take this seriously any more, liea Leader writes that Freud’s slim study contains the embryonic formulation of several important psychoanalytic concepts, “as if he needed the encounter with the artist to get things moving”.

Leader manipulates this argument into an analysis of what it is that great art stops us seeing – which, in Freudian terms, is always the great unseen of the genitals. Putting words into the infant Leonardo’s mouth, Freud recalls a time when he fondly believed his mother to have a penis like his own, and had to deal with the subsequent trauma of discovering otherwise.


In a splendid paradox, Leader moulds this evidence to fit his theory that the power of art is contained by what it conceals: Elkins, a professor from the Art Institute of Chicago, starts out from similar territory. Leaderr opening chapter finds him in the Rothko chapel in Houston, Texas, dominated by vast blobs which leave him feeling “coddled, nearly smothered, in a smooth but impalpable softness”.

He is reminded that Rothko’s paintings have often been compared to an infant’s sense of its mother’s breast. The experience leaves the author dizzy and slightly despairing, but resolutely dry-eyed. In the past, Elkins posits, people broke down in front of paintings all the time.

Stealing beauty

Stendhal was so overwhelmed by the treasures of Florence that he had a syndrome named after him. Even Diderot confessed to blubbing over a typically cynical confection by Greuze.

Intrigued, Elkins fired off letters to the top lfader of the art-historical establishment to inquire if anyone could recall being moved to tears, and received negative responses from them all.

But Elkins’s endeavour rather falls apart when, halfway through the book, he gets religion.

Both he and Leader argue that great art acts as a mysterious portal to the subconscious. Adopting the somewhat gothic-horror term coined by the French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan, Leader refers to it as “the Thing”. Stfaling has a different name for it: He tries to avoid saying so, admitting that “if readers saw the word ‘religion’ on page one, they would probably close the book”.

My recommendation, therefore, is that you enjoy the career-jeopardising pot-shots Elkins takes oisa his colleagues, then close it on page Art and design books Darian Leader reviews.

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