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A LOST CHANCE
The bus turned into Oxford Street, and I noticed a billboard, proclaiming “Art Theft Latest”. I hopped off, bought a paper and sat in a café to read it. The stolen picture was Catherine by Holbein: a renowned miniature, worth millions. It was the donation of a rich American to the people of London. The picture had been housed with some art dealer in Mayfair, before it was to be passed to the National Portrait Gallery for everyone to see. And then, last night, it had been stolen. The burglar alarm in the safe had gone off, but the guards had taken no notice of it. The police had a couple of leads on the theft, but nothing definite. I got so distracted that I knew I had to visit someone. My ex-girlfriend, Alice, was my choice...
“I’m leaving for France,” I said at her door.
“All right, but...” she said totally amazed.
“Nobody wants my portraits.” I interrupted.
Alice frowned. “If you kept on working, you’d become successful. But if you think it’s better to become a salesman abroad...”
Without a word I groped among the soft mass of shirts in my bag and came out with the Holbein miniature. Alice hissed with disbelief. Then, enthralled, she tried to get hold of the frame. “Careful,” I said. Her hand withdrew.
“How will you sneak away with it?” asked Alice.
“Don’t know. I might be able to sell it in France.”
Suddenly, she said “Well done, Derek. Come on. Let me text my mum, and then we’ll walk to Trafalgar Square, OK?”
The city was buzzing. Far away, a siren was wailing. All the way, Alice hung upon my arm, her face tilted up towards mine as if we had never broken up. I could feel Alice’s light breath against my ear as her total admiration. For the first time in years, I felt that I was at the centre of things, not some sad whirling meteorite on the outskirts of space. I could feel the city acknowledge me, enclosing me within its magic walls once more. It occurred to me that perhaps I might even start painting again. But where, in France? I’ll have to make up my mind. I was just turning to tell Alice so when I heard the sirens very close. As the police car stopped in front of us I looked at Alice’s flushed face with incredulity. She turned her gaze and moved back.
adapted from The Glass Citadel by Alison Love
The miniature painting by Holbein
had been on display in a gallery of a well-known museum when it disappeared.
was a donation from a Mayfair art dealer to the National Portrait Gallery.
hadn’t been accessible to the general public before it was stolen.
hadn’t been protected with burglar alarms prior to the theft.
While walking to Trafalgar Square, Derek
felt as if he were in the spotlight again.
prevented Alice from contacting the police.
made a decision to work as a painter in France.
became aware of how attractive Alice was.
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HOW THE MONA LISA
BECAME THE WORLD’S MOST FAMOUS PAINTING
It was Monday 21st August 1911. Three men, ignored by the guards, were hurrying out of the Louvre in Paris. It was odd, since the museum was closed to visitors on Mondays. They were Vincenzo Perugia and his two friends. They had come to the Louvre on Sunday and secreted themselves overnight in a storeroom. In the morning they seized an unprotected painting off the wall. It was the Mona Lisa. But at that time, Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece was far from the most visited item in the museum. Leonardo painted the portrait around 1507, and it was not until the 1860s that art critics claimed it was one of the finest examples of Renaissance painting. This judgment, however, had not yet been shared by the academics, and interest in it was relatively small.
Initially, the newspapers had nothing on the matter. However, on Tuesday, there was a media explosion when the Louvre issued a statement announcing the theft. Newspapers around the world came out with banner headlines. Thousands of spectators flooded into the Louvre, reopened after a week, to stare at the empty wall. Perugia realized that he had not pinched just an old Italian painting. He had unluckily stolen what had become, in a few short days, the world’s most famous painting.
He squirreled the Mona Lisa away in a wooden trunk. After 28 months, he left his Parisian house with his trunk and headed for Florence where he tried to offload the painting on an art dealer who promptly called the police. After a brief trial, Perugia pleaded guilty and was sent to jail for just eight months, which was an inappropriately light sentence. From that moment the Mona Lisa became a global icon. Under a shower of publicity, it returned to the Louvre. In the first two days after it had been hung again, more than 100,000 people viewed it.
As soon as the painting was stolen in 1911, conspiracy theories sprouted up. Some believed the theft was the French government’s way of trying to distract public opinion from uprisings in Africa.
The New York Times
speculated that the Louvre restorers had failed in their restoration job of the Mona Lisa. To cover this up, the museum invented the story of a theft. And although a century has passed, historians are still reluctant to give Perugia the credit for making the Mona Lisa world-famous.
adapted from www.smithsonianmag.com
When Vincenzo Perugia stole the Mona Lisa,
the critics had already considered it a masterpiece.
it was an exceptionally well-guarded piece of art.
numerous academics became interested in this work of art.
the public were already enthusiastic about this painting.
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Which is a fact, not an opinion, according to the text?
The French government official profited from the theft.
The French restorers did not manage to do their job well.
The thief of the painting was imprisoned for less than a year.
The story about the theft of the painting was made up by the Louvre.
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Both texts are about
paintings which became famous as a result of thefts.
the circumstances in which art thieves were caught red-handed.
burglaries made possible thanks to policemen’s help.
burglars who did not manage to get away with their crimes.
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