On this Date in History, August 21: Mona Lisa stolen, birth of Greuze and Beardsley

On August 21, 2017 most of North America will be watching the skies for the total solar eclipse.  What events in art history happened on August 21?  In 1911 the Mona Lisa was famously stolen from the Louvre, in 1725 the French painter Jean-Baptiste Greuze was born and in 1872 English artist Aubrey Beardsley was born.

Portrait of Benjamin Franklin, Greuze, 1777, American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia


Jean-Baptiste Greuze was born on this day in 1725, (21 August 1725 – 4 March 1805). He was a French Neoclassical painter famous for his portraits and genre scenes.  He painted the portraits of dozens of sitters and his genre scenes often had a moralizing message imbedded in the subject matter.

I thought it was fitting to show Greuze's portrait of Benjamin Franklin since the last time a total solar eclipse had a path of totality solely visible in the United States before 2017 was in 1776.  1776 of course being the year that the United States Declaration of Independence was written and Benjamin Franklin was one of the signers of that document, and the oldest of the signers at 70 years old.


The Peacock Skirt, Aubrey Beardsley, illustration for Oscar Wilde's play Salomé (1892)


1872- Aubrey Beardsley (August 21, 1872 – March 16, 1898), the English Art Noveau artist was born.  Beardsley only lived to be 21 years old, he is best remembered for his fantastical illustrations for Oscar Wilde's play Salomé.

Mona Lisa, (La Gioconda), Leonardo da Vinci, 1503-06, The Louvre

On August 21, 1911 the Mona Lisa was famously stolen from The Louvre in Paris.  Leonardo lived and worked in France for the French king and died outside of Paris in 1519.  Due to this the Louvre has at least six paintings as well as dozens of drawings.

A man named Vincenzo Peruggia who worked at the Louvre was Italian and felt that the Mona Lisa should be returned to Italy.  As an employee he was able to take it from the frame and sneak it out of the building. When word got out about the theft the public was shocked. It was said that more people came to the Louvre to see the empty frame in the month after it was stolen than visited the museum the previous year.


It was recovered two years later and today hangs behind glass and a rope and is usually surrounded by a large crowd.  

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