Original Article: What Really Happened When The Mona Lisa Was Attacked (grunge.com)
BY WILLIAM KENNEDY
Thousands scramble each day to get a look at the "Mona Lisa," a portrait by Leonardo da Vinci considered to be among the most famous paintings in the world. Housed in the world-renowned Louvre Museum in Paris, this priceless work of art — painted sometime between 1503 and 1519 — has enraptured the public for centuries, and because of this, it has had its fair share of misadventure (via Britannica). Over the years, rocks and acid have been thrown at the portrait, and in 2022, a piece of cake was even smeared on the artwork's protective casing. All this has only added to the mystique and popularity of this timeless classic.
Due to these attacks, among others, visitors to the Louvre Museum today may only view the slight smile of "La Joconde" — or so the painting is called in French — through a bulletproof glass case. It also protects the "Mona Lisa" from being stolen, which it once was in 1911. Prior to this protective casing, though, one attack on the painting came in 1956, when a Bolivian man named Ugo Ungaza Villegas hurled a rock at the painting, which, at that point, was just behind glass. The rock was thrown with such force that it caused some damage, as The Telegraph notes. Only a matter of months before that, a woman threw acid at the work of art, reaching its lower sections. Though the bulletproof casing was then added to protect the art from such damage, it hasn't completely stopped vandals from trying.
After those two attempts in the '50s, the next notable attack on the "Mona Lisa" came in 1974, when the painting was on loan to the Tokyo National Museum. At that time, a woman with a disability sprayed red paint on the glass casing to protest an ableist policy that refused people with disabilities from viewing the masterpiece, based on reporting from the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. The painting was undamaged. After that, the next attack on the painting came in 2009 when an unnamed Russian visitor threw a ceramic mug at it, allegedly protesting the fact he was recently refused French citizenship, as The Guardian explains.
The mug that was used in the 2009 incident was purchased in the Louvre Museum gift shop. The bulletproof glass case the priceless artwork rested behind at that point was strong enough to repel the mug, which only shattered. The floor was then merely swept, and the viewing room remained open after the vandal was apprehended. After 2009, things remained quiet for the "Mona Lisa" until 2022, when cake was smeared across the glass protecting the object as a purported protest against climate change, as CBS News reports in their coverage.
The 36-year-old man who was reportedly responsible for the 2022 attack on the "Mona Lisa" dressed himself up as an elderly woman in a wheelchair (per CBS News). From this vantage point, he was allowed close enough to the object to pull a piece of cake he had hidden on his person and smear it across the glass behind which the painting resides. Images of the sugar frosting spread across the glass casing quickly spread across social media, but the painting itself was undamaged.
The purported culprit in the 2022 cake attack on the "Mona Lisa" was quickly apprehended. At that point, the man said (via CBS News), "Think about the Earth. There are people who are destroying the Earth. Think about it ... all artists, think about the Earth — this is why I did this. Think about the planet." The suspect was then put under psychiatric evaluation, according to CNN. Unharmed and happily protected by bulletproof glass, the "Mona Lisa" itself lives on to grin its enigmatic grin another day, and hopefully for many more centuries to come.