A man in a wig and lipstick apparently trying to pass as an old woman in a wheelchair threw cake at the Mona Lisa Sunday. The world’s most famous painting, created between 1503 and 1517, was unharmed as the bulletproof protective glass was smeared with white cream.
What is it about Paris and cake?
The shocking incident happened at the Louvre as visitors crowded around Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece. The clearly mentally stable art critic then proceeded to throw roses everywhere before being tackled by security.
The artist yelled an environmental protest as he was being taken away. He declared in French that people need to think about those destroying the Earth. “Artists tell you: think of the Earth. That’s why I did this.”
The Paris prosecutor’s office confirmed the 36-year-old suspect was sent to a police psychiatric unit. The office is also investigating possible damage to cultural artifacts. The suspect was not immediately identified.
A statement from the Louvre praised the actions of its staff immediately after the incident. It noted that protecting national collections is “at the heart of their missions.”
For the record, this is hardly the most bizarre protest by environmentalists to draw attention to themselves. Hundreds of bicyclists a few years back traversed mainland Europe in the nude to promote eco-friendly transportation.
A 24-year-old man literally tried to glue himself to British Prime Minister Gordon Brown to make an environmental point.
Back to the Mona Lisa, the Renaissance masterpiece has a more colorful history that would be expected from a painting. In 1911 an Italian handyman, Vincenzo Paruggia, stole the Mona Lisa from the Louvre, and for two years the worldwide search turned up nothing.
It did, however, spread the image around the world long before TV or the internet. An already famous artistic creation became the most recognizable, perhaps in history. The thief was interviewed twice before police concluded he could not have done it, and Pablo Picasso was even a suspect.
The painting was finally recovered two years later when the thief contacted a gallery in Florence, Italy, saying he had it in a trunk in his apartment. One prominent art historian describes Peruggia as “a few pickles short of a sandwich.” He spent seven months in jail.
The Mona Lisa was attacked twice in 1956, once with acid and another time with a thrown rock. There have been other incidents since, like Sunday’s cake throwing, but the bulletproof glass protected the masterpiece. Those incidents reportedly were unrelated to climate change.