Italian town honours Mona Lisa thief as 'patriot'

20th August 2011, Comments 0 comments

The native town of an Italian labourer who stole the Mona Lisa from the Louvre museum in Paris 100 years ago on Sunday in the art world's most famous heist will honour him with a play that portrays him as a patriot.

"We believe Peruggia was a patriot," said Simone Toffanin, director of the play entitled "The Trial of Vincenzo Peruggia" -- part of a summer theatre festival in the town of Dumenza north of Milan near the shores of picturesque Lago Maggiore.

Recounting the famous house painter's story, the official website for Dumenza uses quotation marks around the word "thief" to describe Peruggia. Instead of the word "stolen", the website also says the painting was "withdrawn" from the Louvre.

But Dumenza's mayor Corrado Nazario Moro said he did not want Peruggia to become some kind of local hero if only to safeguard his town's reputation. "We do not want to become known as the birthplace of the Mona Lisa thief," he said.

The Mona Lisa went missing from the main gallery of the Louvre on August 21, 1911.

It was recovered more than two years later when Peruggia tried to sell the painting to an antiques dealer in Florence in December 1913. He was tried in Italy but received a relatively light sentence and said he had acted purely out of patriotism.

© 2011 AFP

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