«Mona Lisa» in tartlets: Louvre files complaint

Art 30 May, 2022

Think of the Earth (…) . There are people who are destroying the Earth, think about it. All artists, think about the Earth. That’s why I did it. Think about the planet. This is what was claimed by the man who on Sunday, May 29, threw a cake on the Gioconda in the Louvre, in Paris.

Photos or videos did not record the incident itself, but on Monday the museum explained how the incident unfolded:

«The visitor simulated the situation of a disabled person in order to use a wheelchair and approach the work installed in a protected showcase. The Louvre applied its usual procedures for people with disabilities, allowing them to admire this main work of the Louvre. Installed next to the work, this man threw a cake at the Mona Lisa screen, which he hid in his personal belongings.

This throw did not affect the painting, which was not affected. The man was immediately captured and evacuated by reception and surveillance officers, and then handed over to the police, who arrived at the scene. The Louvre has filed a complaint».

The 36-year-old man who threw the cake was hospitalized in a psychiatric hospital of the police department, and an investigation was launched into «attempts to damage cultural property», as we learned on Monday in the Paris prosecutor’s office. For her part, Mona Lisa stoically waited until she was washed and resumed her activities in front of the audience later.

With the number of visitors at 30,000 people a day, such an incident had to happen, again, at the most famous painting in the world. This entourage, in fact, is not his first misadventure: in 1911, the Mona Lisa was stolen by Vincenzo Perugia, an Italian glazier who participated in the work of placing the most important works of the museum under glass to protect them from vandals. He kept it in his room for two years before offering it to a Florentine antique dealer. She returned to the Louvre in 1914.

She went through two world wars without incident – the first in Bordeaux, then in Toulouse, the second in Chambord, Amboise, Loc-Dieu, Montauban, Chambord, Montalais-en-Quercy, Lot and Cosse. Then new measures are taken, after on December 30, 1956, Hugo Ungaza Villegas, a Bolivian citizen subject to expulsion, throws a stone towards the painting and breaks the screen protecting the portrait of Lisa Gherardini. Shards of glass damaged his left elbow.

In 1974, during Mona Lisa’s visit to Japan, a woman doused her with red paint. Then, in August 2009, a Russian visitor was arrested for throwing a cup of tea at a painting. The shell did not penetrate the armored window, which is only slightly scratched.

Since 2005, the Mona Lisa has been completely safe behind armored glass, protected by a special box where humidity and temperature are controlled. Protection is all the more necessary because the canvas is not insured. In 1962, before La Gioconda’s trip to Washington and then to New York, Le Monde wrote: «The painting is practically priceless, the premium would be exorbitant anyway, and in case of theft, the fact that it was not insured precludes any possibility of blackmail with companies».

In 2020, Beaux-Arts magazine explained that «Unlike private museums, the state does not pay for insurance. The reason? Too much work and too high value. No one would have the means to insure priceless paintings. (…) It remains only to invest in security».