Published online by Cambridge University Press: 10 August 2006
Taking the 1911 theft of the Mona Lisa from the Louvre Museum as a case study, this article examines the historical relation between crime storytelling and the myriad local struggles for spatial control that animate urban life. Modern Europe's most staggering art heist left city officials and police wholly clueless, and inspired a two-year outpouring of explanatory narratives from Parisians of virtually all social strata. This article shows how, in ostensibly making sense of the ‘impossible’ theft, the city's inhabitants imaginatively wove it into the social fabric of everyday life, thereby bringing the event to bear on a broad range of spatial tensions and rivalries. As they re-fashioned mass press versions of the theft to fit local concerns – both public and intimate – contemporaries understood crime stories as a tool with which to shape the city as they knew it.
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