Jackie's Charm Sparked US Visit by Mona Lisa

First lady persuaded French to loan painting, boost our culture
By Ambreen Ali,  Newser User
Posted Oct 9, 2008 2:42 PM CDT
Her poplar panel warped, a split in the upper part of the picture, and beetle holes in the back made Louvre staff nervous about sending the Mona on another journey.   (AP Photo/Amel Pain, File)
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(Newser) – Jackie Kennedy executed a diplomatic coup in 1962, when she convinced the smitten French culture minister to send the Mona Lisa on a perilous journey. The painting's visit to the US—"then regarded as a country with hardly any culture at all," in the words of one historian—is the focus of a new book by Margaret Leslie Davis excerpted in Vanity Fair.

The minister—novelist André Malraux, one of the first lady's favorite writers—went straight to president Charles de Gaulle to arrange for the weathered painting, already scarred with a rip and beetle holes, to make the 5-day journey. President Kennedy knew an opportunity when he saw one; he transformed the "Moner Liser" into a Cold War symbol of Western progress.