The Gilded Seal
By James Twining
Harper Collins 2007
In 1911 the Mona Lisa painting was stolen from the Louvre in Paris. It was recovered in 1913.
Now it is 2007 (almost 100 years later). What if... What if another attempt is going to be made to steal the Mona Lisa and replace it with a forgery?
In England former art thief Tom Kirk is called to a castle in Scotland where a valuable painting has been stolen. It is called Madonna of the Yarnwinder. A gambling chip is left at the scene. This tells Tom immediately who committed this crime.
While Tom is in Scotland, a piece of Napoleon memorabilia is stolen from a museum in England and the security camera shows the profile of a man. Tom recognizes the profile and flies to France to see him and find out why he stole the napoleon piece. Tom discovers that he is to late. The man is dead, so Tom starts looking for the killer.
In New York FBI agent Jennifer Browne is asked by a gentleman to find out which of two paintings is the original. This painting is called Vase de Fleurs, Lilas by Paul Gauguin. There is an art auction due to be held in Paris soon. The catalogue shows this exact painting listed for sale. So the gentleman wishes to know, which painting is the original. The one in Paris, or his?
Jennifer visits the man who sold this gentleman his painting. She dislikes him and he is acting suspiciously so Jennifer decides to investigate him. Most of his clients to whom he sells paintings are Japanese. But the question is, where does he get his paintings?
Jennifer follows the trail to Paris, and accidently meets up with Tom. Together they discover that there is a forgery ring that has been around for a number of years making forgeries and selling them off as the originals. One of these was the Yarnwinder and another is the Mona Lisa. Tom and Jennifer discover that the Mona Lisa in the Louvre is also a forgery. It has been since it was recovered in 1913. The Louvre know this and have kept it quiet. The Louvre have to keep quiet or their reputation is in ruins.
Tom and Jennifer find the forgery group and attempt to catch the leader, a man named Milo. It is discovered that the forgery was actually committed by Napoleon, and that the Mona Lisa in the Louvre was a forgery even before it was stolen in 1911.
The last line we read is Eeny, Meeny, Miney, Mo....
(which of these paintings goes on show?)
An excellent and exciting story, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. But I usually do enjoy any well written art crime story. I love art - if you didn't already know that. I hope this is only a story and that there are no real life rumours of the Mona Lisa being a forgery. That would be a disaster.