Which Of These Paintings Was Almost Entirely Unknown Before A High Profile Art Theft?
Answer: Mona Lisa
Whether you ask someone to think of a famous painting or the most famous painting, almost universally you’ll hear about the Mona Lisa. Given the sheer fame of the painting now it is almost inconceivable to the modern reader to think of a world where the Mona Lisa is not a painting well known to people from Brazil to Beijing.
Yet prior to a very high profile heist of the painting in 1911, the Mona Lisa was virtually unknown. Outside of a deep appreciation and esteem held by a very small group of French art critics and historians well versed in Renaissance painting, the painting was almost entirely unknown (and hadn’t even been appreciated in the small capacity it was before the 1860s). The theft drew international attention to the painting which simultaneously exposed a wider audience to the painting itself as well as educated the public as to the value and importance of the piece.
When the painting was finally returned to the Louvre in 1913, the era of Mona Lisa’s prominence in both popular culture and art history was firmly cemented.