“The Last Mona Lisa”

The Mona Lisa melts into fiction, back to truth, or perhaps not back to the truth

“The Last Mona Lisa” is based on the life of Vincent Peruggia who stole Leonardo’s Mona Lisa from The Louvre on August 21, 1911.  I know the story; I have read numerous accounts, and I have watched documentary reenactments. I even have socks adorned with that famous face. What more could this book add to the legacy? Well, as it turns out, quite a lot. What if The Mona Lisa which has been in The Louvre all these years is a fake? How can one be sure?

The story unfolds in a first person narrative by Luke Perrone, an artist and a teacher of art history. He is captivated by the most famous woman in the world: Lisa del Giocondo, the beautiful Mona Lisa, a four-hundred-year-old beauty who was abducted and returned more than once including one time by Perrone’s great-grandfather, Vincent Peruggia.

The chapters alternate back and forth in time between the present and 1911. The narrative is full of feelings, expectations, goals, and motivations. The journey is told through journals written by Peruggia, historic academic research, Perrone’s personal investigations, and INTERPOL inquiries. The Mona Lisa’s adventures throughout the ages are documented including the many forgeries of her, some exposed and some hidden even from the most diligent examiners.

“The Last Mona Lisa” is compelling, unpredictable, and absorbing, page after page as truth melts into fiction and returns to reality. The story is preposterous and yet so believable. Which is Leonardo’s Mona Lisa, and which ones are fakes? I received a review copy of “The Last Mona Lisa” from Jonathan Santlofer and Sourcebooks.  The author himself makes replications of famous paintings for private collectors (that can always be identified as replications), and he has reproduced The Mona Lisa many times.