Five Stolen Paintings The World Nearly Lost

Mona Lisa, Leonardo da Vinci:

Would the Mona Lisa receive the same amount of attention if it hadn't been stolen? Prior to its theft, the painting was hardly known outside the art world. But interest in the painting peaked after it was stolen right off the wall by Vincenzo Peruggia, a thief imitating the cleaning staff. The ensuing panic closed the doors to the Louvre for a week, and the painting wasn't found for two years. You can see it -- sort of -- behind a thick wall of tourists and bullet-proof, alarmed plexiglass at the Louvre in Paris, France.

Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, Hubert and Jan van Eyck:

Better known as the Ghent Altarpiece, Mystic Lamb, painted in 1432, it seems to be beloved by Germans -- soldiers, in particular. The first heist of two panels occurred by German forces in WWI. The second heist, in 1942, was commissioned by Hitler because he wanted the painting to hanging in Neuschwanstein Castle -- the famous "Disney" castle. The painting can still be found in St. Bavo's Cathedral in Ghent, Belgium, its original location, although one panel, "The Just Judges," remains missing.

Boy in the Red Vest, Paul Cezanne:

At the outset, this painting is no more famous than any of the others listed -- although its $109 million value begs to differ. It's just a boy wearing an Italian red waistcoat. But what's intriguing about the boy is that Cezanne's work was one of three paintings stolen from the private Bührle Collection in 2008. The other paintings include a Van Gogh, Monet and Degas. The combined price of these works exceeded $300 million. The painting is back at the E.G. Bührle Collection, Zürich, Switzerland, although, hopefully, under tighter security measures.

Jacob de Gheyn III, Rembrandt:

The 12-inch by 10-inch portrait is of the son of the canon of Utrecht. What's most interesting about this painting is that, since 1966, it's been stolen four different times, the most of any artwork. Because of this, it's commonly known as the "takeaway Rembrandt." It's only a matter of time before the painting disappears again. Currently, it's hiding at the Dulwich Picture Gallery in London, England.

The Scream, Edvard Munch:

Munch's The Scream ranks among the most iconic figures in art history. The piece's bent-skull, long chin and wide eyes even inspired a series of over-dramatic horror films and a Halloween costume craze in the '90s. But even more fascinating is that The Scream has been subjected to many thefts. The most recent theft occurred in 2004, when the $150 million painting wasn't recovered for two years. You can find it in the Munch Museum in Oslo, Norway.

Vanessa A. Ryan is the author of:
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