Hiding Mona Lisa
The Louvre Trilogy Book 1
By Lynn Murphy
Genre: Mystery, Romance, Historical
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I often wondered, as I watched him day after day, if perhaps he loved art too much. Loved it too much to allow himself to fall in love with a person who wasn’t painted on canvas. I watched him and wondered what happened when he went home at night, after the museum guards moved through each floor at closing, employing what is known as ‘the sweep’. How he spent the hours from when the last patron was swept out of the galleries and the doors were locked and the next day’s opening. Where did he go, what did he do in the evenings before the doors were unlocked the next morning?
Of course, loving art as he did, being a curator at the world’s greatest art museum was the only profession in which he would have been employed. The man fit in well with the art treasures that surrounded him as he worked; he was beautiful to look at with his dark hair, smoldering blue eyes and face and form that looked as if he could have been sculpted from marble with Michelangelo’s hand. He was quick to smile and unfailingly polite, even as he moved the tourists back from the works when they got too close. Never once did I observe anyone within the Louvre’s corridors become upset or agitated with him. I watched him day to day, with much interest. He moved with an athletic grace, seemed so at ease in his surroundings. For work he was always impeccably dressed, a crisp unwrinkled shirt, a silk tie, a dark well cut suit. On the occasions when he was required to stay for black tie events after hours, he wore his tuxedo with an ease that stood out around men who seemed uncomfortable to have found themselves in black tie. I never believed him to have been born to wealth; rather, he seemed to be a man who had acquired his social skills on his own.
He was possessed with an uncanny ability to read people. Some curators worked purely behind the scenes but not Alain. The director of the Musees Nationaux, the man who oversaw the Louvre during World War II, Jacques Jaujard, knew that having Alain out of the back offices and roaming the corridors with the patrons was a good thing. The two had much in common. Both were handsome, art savvy, had quick wit and were worldly enough to understand what was happening and what was about to come.
If Jaujard had any doubts about Alain, he kept them to himself. The most interesting conversations they had, at least on the floor, were about the patrons, the crowds that found themselves in the most famous museum on earth.
“What do you make of her?” Jaujard would say, acknowledging a beautiful young woman who was a frequent visitor.
“Not an artist herself,” Alain replied. “She never brings a sketchbook. She studies the artwork with great interest and appreciation and when she speaks it is with an English accent. She also peers at the map with much interest as well. An art thief.”
Jaujard laughed. “But a very beautiful one.”
Jaujard pointed out another man, who also was frequently there. “And him?”
“Obviously German, by his coloring and bearing. Copies something into his sketchbook every time he comes. I haven’t quite figured him out yet.”
“And that couple there?”
“Nothing terribly interesting. Just American tourists.”
Jaujard would laugh and go back to his office while Alain wandered among the visitors and paused, every day and on several occasions, to gaze at a few of his own favorites among the Louvre’s vast collection. The man had an almost reverence about him whenever he studied the most famous of all the paintings, the one the French call La Jaconde and the rest of the world calls Mona Lisa. I often wondered if he felt the same about the painting as Napoleon Bonaparte had. The rumor was that the former emperor had loved it so much that he had hung it on his bedroom wall. Clearly, something about the mysterious smile drew Alain in, made him want to cast his eyes upon it with regularity. Some who gaze on the painting react as Alain and Napoleon had; they revere it, adore it, and love it. Others come by and scarcely give it a second glance. Never the less, it is considered to be the jewel of the Louvre and that much was true in those last days of the 1930s when Hitler was an imminent threat.
For those who believe that the entire world was caught off guard by Hitler’s rise to power, it should be pointed out that almost as soon as the man was elected the staff at the Louvre and other French museums began taking precautions against the possibility of war. Perhaps they didn’t anticipate the fact that the Fuhrer would plunder his way across Europe, taking the best of both museums and private collections, but the fear of bombs falling on the country’s treasures was on their minds. In spite of those fears and the preparations that were going on behind the scenes, the Louvre staff continued to go on with business as usual. Each day Alain Darnay walked the halls and admired the collections and assisted the patrons and after working hours, found himself engaged in activities that would endanger both his own life and the artwork that he so loved.
Finding Fritz Gerhard
The Louvre Trilogy Book 2
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The Louvre Trilogy Book 3
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I am married and have two sons and live in Peachtree City, GA. In addition to writing I enjoy running, cycling photography, hiking, canoeing and reading a good book.
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