It has been said that life imitates art, but there's more than a few times that history's shown real life kicks art's ass. Danny Ocean might have had some big plans in his movies, but he can't hold a candle to some of history's more daring real-life thieves.
7Cool Hand Vincenzo
In 1911, Vincenzo Peruggia had only worked at the esteemed Louvre Museum for one month when the young Italian first encountered the Mona Lisa. Feeling that the famed painting belonged back in its native Italy, Vincenzo spent the next three weeks researching. He studied the museum's entrances, exits, the locks and he even profiled the security guards and found that their "lazy work habits" were perfectly suited to his purposes. After a careful period of casing the joint and its inhabitants, on August 21, 1911, he pulled off what was referred to at the time as the crime of the century.
He knew that the museum would be closed Monday morning for repairs, and after hiding inside the museum the whole night, Vincenzo donned a smock and swept the Mona Lisa off her feet with one furl of his fabric. Seeing at least 10 people working nearby and being illegally in the possession of the most famous piece of art known to the planet might weaken the resolve of lesser men, but Vincenzo kept his cool.
He moved down a nearby stairway, probably humming the Mission: Impossible theme to himself, and freed Mona from her frame. When the downstairs exit was locked, Vincenzo thinking either on his feet or like a caveman ripped the doorknob off the door and convinced a nearby plumber that it was stolen. A reminder: The dude with the Mona Lisa on his person was making a fuss to a plumber about a stolen doorknob. The plumber let him out and bam: The crime was complete.
Apparently basic skepticism hadn't been invented yet.
Vincenzo expected a hero's welcome back in Italy and a hefty reward for the painting, but Florence's Uffizi Gallery just fluffed his balls long enough to authenticate the painting and put the poor dumb sap under arrest. Vincenzo was sentenced to jail, but served minimal time as the patriotism of his act was considered a "mitigating factor." Remember that the next time you appear in traffic court. You weren't speeding. You were speeding for America.
Those pedestrians you hit were probably terrorists or something.
6Is That The Last Supper in Your Pocket or Are You Just Happy to See Me?
Stephane Breitwieser must have had a lot of empty walls. In his six years as an art thief, the sneaky bastard stole hundreds of priceless works of art--enough loot to count as a war crime--but since Europe has a soft spot for sensitive Frenchmen who love their mothers, Stephane Breitwieser is currently an international celebrity.
Stephane Breitwieser, upon realizing what he looks like in a mirror.
Breitwieser began his career in criminality while visiting a castle in Switzerland with one of those "he's a jerk, but I still love him" girlfriends. He put the girl's love to the test when he saw a nice painting on the wall and said, "Oh, isn't that nice... honey, keep a look out for me," as he spontaneously ripped the damned thing right off the wall. He then left the museum, presumably with a jazzy score with lots of saxophones in it playing along with him as he winked at the front security camera, put on some sunglasses and sped away, hot girlfriend in tow.
The after-heist sex was insane.
Once he realized that virtually anything became invisible when placed under his coat, Breitwieser and Co. repeated this routine for six years with a nearly 100 percent success rate. When it came to museums, the thief would sweep the scene for alarms, guards and cameras, and then have his girlfriend make a "loud" diversion as he removed the artwork. If the frame was armed with a sensor, he simply cut the picture right out of the frame with a blade. It worked like a charm at over 170 different museums thanks to Breitwieser's quick hands and his girlfriend's theatrics.
But even the best in the business get greedy at some point. For Breitwieser, stealing 238 pieces of art (plus one fake) is nothing unless you have a 400-year-old trumpet with which to toot your own horn. Yeah, about that: The man was seen stealing a quadricentarian bugle from a Swiss museum, and was arrested two days later staking out another heist at the same freaking location.
Totally worth a couple years in jail.
For his unprecedented douchebaggery, Breitwieser was sentenced to three years in jail, and his girlfriend (now "ex-girlfriend" for some reason) got 18 months. Due to the adorableness of his crimes, however, he only served 26 months, and when he was released he wrote a self-promoting book that made him quite a bit of money. The lesson, apparently, is that crime pays, and when it stops paying, it resumes in 26 months.