Follow Vogue Arabia

Mona Lisa Attacked at Louvre Museum by Vandal Posing as Elderly Woman

Photo: Getty Images

The Mona Lisa doesn’t smile, but maybe now she licks her lips?

A 36-year-old man was arrested in Paris on Sunday after hurling cake at the 16th century painting, arguably the most famous artwork on Earth, as reported by The Guardian. Since the Louvre Museum keeps Leonardo da Vinci’s painting behind bulletproof glass, it was not harmed. Video of a guard wiping off cream or frosting from the clear barrier was posted by a Twitter user.

Witnesses said that the would-be vandal approached the artwork wearing a long wig and dressed as an elderly woman in a wheelchair. He allegedly leapt up, attempted to smash the glass, then smeared cake. As he was tackled by guards, he threw roses, Reuters reported. He shouted “think of the earth, people are destroying the earth!” in French as he was taken away by security.

A Louvre statement confirmed the attack on the artwork involved a “patisserie.”

The Mona Lisa has had a busy life since its creation in the early 1500s. Leonardo took it with him when he left Italy for France in 1516, where he died three years later. The painting has hung at the Palace of Fontainebleau, then the Palace of Versailles, and, for a time, in Napoleon’s bedroom in the Tuileries Palace before settling at the Louvre. In 1911, the 2’ 6” x 1’ 9” painting was stolen by an Italian decorator, who smuggled it to Florence, possibly for nationalist reasons, before it was returned in 1914. Prior to the theft the piece was mostly known by artists and historians who recognized its value as a Renaissance masterwork. It’s international adventure (and temporary display at the Uffizi Gallery) brought it more mainstream notoriety.

In the 1950s the famous painting was put behind glass after someone attacked it with a razor. Even with this protection, a Bolivian man threw a rock at it hard enough to dislodge some of the pigment near the subject’s elbow. In the mid-70s, when the artwork visited Japan, someone sprayed red paint at it. As with Sunday’s attack, it only got on the protective casing.

Visiting the painting today, unless you line up at the Louvre before it opens and sprint to the Salle des États Room 711, you’ll find a carnival of would-be influencers taking photos of themselves overwhelming the space. (Other masterpieces of the era hang nearby, like Paolo Caliari’s The Wedding Feast at Cana and Titian’s Pastoral Concert, forever condemned to get dissed by thousands of tourists each day.) In 2019, an editorial in The New York Times argued that the Louvre should consider ditching “the Kim Kardashian of 16th-century Italian portraiture.”

In 1919 Marcel Duchamp took a Mona Lisa postcard, scribbled on a mustache, called it “L.H.O.O.Q.,” which is an esoteric lewd pun in French, and now it hangs in a museum of its own.

Originally published in 

Read next: Bottega Veneta Monalisa Nappa Glimmer Tote

View All
Vogue Collection