This Day in History (11-Dec-1913) – “Mona Lisa”, stolen from the Louvre Museum in 1911, recovered

On August 21, 1911, Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, one of the most famous paintings in the world, was stolen right off the wall of the Louvre (famous museum in Paris, France). The Louvre was closed for a week to aid the investigation. Police found the plate of glass which was placed on the painting and Mona Lisa’s frame lying in a staircase. But investigation headed nowhere.

In the Autumn of 1913, a well-known antique dealer, Alfredo Geri, innocently placed an ad in several Italian newspapers which stated that he was “a buyer at good prices of art objects.” Soon after he placed the ad, Geri received a letter dated November 29 (1913), that stated the writer was in possession of the stolen Mona Lisa. The letter had a post office box in Paris as a return address and had been signed only as “Leonardo.” Geri contacted Commendatore Giovanni Poggi, museum director of the Uffizi (museum in Florence, Italy). Geri replied showing interest. Another letter came almost immediately asking Geri to go to Paris to see the painting. Geri replied, stating that he could not go to Paris, but, instead, arranged for “Leonardo” to meet him in Milan.

On December 10, 1913, an Italian man appeared stating he was Leonardo Vincenzo and that he had the Mona Lisa back in his hotel room. Leonardo explained that he had stolen the painting in order to restore to Italy what had been stolen from it by Napoleon. Thus, Leonardo made the stipulation that the Mona Lisa was to be hung at the Uffizi and never given back to France. Upon his leaving, Geri contacted the police and the Uffizi. The following day, Geri and Poggi (the museum director) appeared at Leonardo’s hotel room. Leonardo pulled out a wooden trunk. After opening the trunk, Leonardo pulled out a pair of underwear, some old shoes, and a shirt. Then Leonardo removed a false bottom — and there lay the Mona Lisa. The museum director said that he would need to compare the painting with other works by Leonardo da Vinci. They then walked out with the painting. Leonardo Vincenzo, whose real name was Vincenzo Peruggia, was arrested. Peruggia hadn’t had a plan to dispose of the painting; his only goal was to return it to Italy. The painting was displayed throughout Italy before it was returned to France on December 30, 1913.

Reference:

http://www.historyorb.com/day/december/11

http://history1900s.about.com/od/famouscrimesscandals/a/monalisa.htm

This Day in History (8-Jul-1951) – Paris celebrates 2,000th birthday

On this day in 1951, Paris, the capital city of France, celebrates turning 2,000 years old. The history of Paris can be traced back to a Gallic tribe known as the Parisii, who sometime around 250 B.C. settled an island (known today as Ile de la Cite) in the Seine River, which runs through present-day Paris. By 52 B.C., Julius Caesar and the Romans had taken over the area, which eventually became Christianized and known as Lutetia, Latin for “midwater dwelling.” The settlement later spread to both the left and right banks of the Seine and the name Lutetia was replaced with “Paris.” In 987 A.D., when Hugh Capet, count of Paris, became king of France, Paris became the capital of France. As the city grew, the Left Bank earned a reputation as the intellectual district while the Right Bank became known for business.

During the French Renaissance period, from the late 15th century to the early 17th century, Paris became a center of art, architecture and science. In the mid-1800s, Napoleon III hired civic planner Georges-Eugene Hausmann to modernize Paris. Hausmann’s designs gave the city wide, tree-lined boulevards, large public parks, a new sewer system and other public works projects. The city continued to develop as an important hub for the arts and culture. In the 1860s, an artistic movement known as French Impression emerged, featuring the work of a group of Paris-based artists that included Claude Monet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

Paris was the headquarters of NATO from 1950 to 1967; it is the headquarters of UNESCO and the European Space Agency.  Today, the city retains its reputation as a center for food, fashion, commerce and culture. Paris also continues to be one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations, renowned for such sights as the Eiffel Tower (built in 1889 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution), the Arc de Triomphe, the Champs-Elysees, Notre Dame Cathedral (built in 1163), Luxembourg Gardens and the Louvre Museum, home to Leonardo da Vinci’s painting “Mona Lisa.”

 

Reference:

http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/paris-celebrates-2000th-birthday

http://www.infoplease.com/encyclopedia/world/paris-city-france-history.html

This Day in History (15-May-1718) – James Puckle, a London lawyer, patents world’s 1st machine gun

Since the 14th Century, there had been many attempts to produce a small calibre, rapid-fire weapon. The advantages were controllable recoil together with many projectiles which together seemed a good formula to cause maximum casualties to the opposition. Many devices were tried, few actually saw action. Leonardo da Vinci designed one, although it probably never left the drawing board. In 1718, James Puckle of London, England, demonstrated his new invention, the “Puckle Gun,” a tripod-mounted, single-barreled flintlock gun fitted with a multishot revolving cylinder. This weapon fired nine shots per minute at a time when the standard soldier’s musket could be loaded and fired but three times per minute. It was designed for ship-board use, to prevent boarding.

Puckle demonstrated two versions of the basic design. One weapon, intended for use against Christian enemies, fired conventional round bullets, while the second variant, designed to be used against the Muslim Turks, fired square bullets, which were believed to cause more severe and painful wounds than spherical projectiles and would convince the Turks of the benefits of the Christian civilization. While this seems rather racist today, it should be seen in the context of the time. The Turks were pushing into Eastern Europe, one of the cradles of Christianity, converting the conquered to Islam.

The “Puckle Gun” failed to attract investors and never achieved mass production or sales to the British armed forces. One newspaper of the period observed following the business venture’s failure that “those are only wounded who hold shares therein.” Even though the Puckle Gun was a failure at the time, it is the father of the machine gun and laid the seeds of innovation that would later be adopted into the revolver we still use today. This weapon might have been way ahead of it’s time, but it is such an important piece of firearm history, and James Puckle’s invention would eventually change the world.

 

Reference:

http://www.historyorb.com/day/may/15

http://inventors.about.com/od/militaryhistoryinventions/a/firearms.htm

http://h2g2.com/approved_entry/A876855

https://www.google.co.in/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=11&ved=0CFQQFjAK&url=http%3A%2F%2Fguns411.com%2Fcool-guns-411-the-puckle-gun-1718%2F&ei=BCBUVYuCMcOKuwTWjoLYBQ&usg=AFQjCNHcqd1eI6oEOxMiiL5EdBZBbYKajg&sig2=pz-_CbakUZMJCeMI9yPJRg