Famous works of art that have been vandalized, including the Mona Lisa
Museums, galleries and collectors have faced vandalism of works of art for decades, if not centuries. These include masterpieces by Leonardo da Vinci, Pablo Picasso and Rembrandt, known for their history, beauty, prestige and style.
Although there has rarely been a logical reason behind the vandalism of some of the world’s most famous works of art, these iconic pieces have endured many things, including token protests and mental health issues.
Moreover, they have also been a source of grief or anger for some like Hans-Joachim Bohlmann. He was perhaps the most notorious art vandal, whose life story is a tragedy that calls for sympathy instead of contempt.
There are others like Bohlmann who have vandalized works of art due to their mental state, but some have simply used the paintings’ popularity to their advantage. They may have wanted to make a splash just to raise what they consider to be an important political or social concern.
Here are some popular works of art that have been vandalized
Leonardo DeVinci Mona Lisa, widely recognized as one of the most famous paintings in the world, has often been the target of vandals.
The 16th-century Renaissance painting has been in the Louvre Museum in Paris, France, since 1804. On May 30, 2022, a man dressed as an old lady in a wheelchair threw a cake at the painting. However, the painting was not damaged due to its protective glass.
“While standing near the blackboard, this individual threw a pastry he had hidden in his personal belongings into the mona-lisathe glass showcase. This act had no effect on the painting, which suffered no damage,” the Louvre said in a statement.
The mona-lisa has a long history of being targeted and was also robbed once. In fact, it was the flight in 1911 which historians say gave him international fame within two years when he remained missing.
It was attacked twice in 1956. Once, when someone threw acid on mona-lisa while he was in Montauban, France, and later still when a tourist threw a rock at him. The impact caused the protective glass to break and damaged a small part of the paint.
Also in 1974, when the painting was on display at the National Museum in Tokyo, a disabled woman spray-painted the protective glass with red ink, in protest against the museum’s disability policy.
In 2009, a Russian woman threw an earthenware cup on the board. She was reportedly angry with the French establishment for refusing her citizenship application. However, the glass shield destroyed the cup.
The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne and Saint John the Baptist
The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne and Saint John the Baptist is a famous work of art by Leonardo da Vinci, which became the target of a vandal in 1987, at the National Gallery in London, England.
A man entered the museum with a concealed shotgun and shot the artwork just before closing time. The pellets did not directly damage the painting, thanks to a protective glass covering, but the pieces of glass tore the painting apart, making a hole where the Virgin Mary’s robe was pulled.
According to a 1988 report by The New York Timesthe painting was restored through a process that involved sticking tiny shreds of paper back onto the painting.
It was created in the 16th century and is identified primarily as a work of cartoon art – pattern designs created for later transfer to panels, walls or canvas.
The painting was acquired in 1962 by the British government through public donations which generated £800,000 (about $2.24 million at the time), as well as the government’s own funding of £350,000.
The same year, he was attacked by a vandal who threw a bottle of ink at him.
The night watch
by Rembrandt The night watch has been the target of vandals on three occasions, all in the 20th century.
The greatest damage occurred in 1975 when a mental patient left long knife cuts there. This led to a major restoration of the painting. But in 2019, a white haze around knife-damaged areas forced restorers to undertake another round of restorations.
Apart from this, an attempted vandalism took place in 1911, when an unemployed navy cook tried to cut it with a knife. In 1990, another unemployed worker threw acid on it, causing minimal damage.
The giant 17th-century masterpiece housed in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, also escaped a Nazi attack. It was partially damaged on both sides during a move.
Danae is a 17th century oil painting by Rembrandt. It was purchased by Russian Empress Catherine the Great in Paris in 1772.
A mentally unstable man threw acid on it and tried to make two cut marks with a knife, while it was on display in the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, Russia, in 1985.
The damage caused was significant. More than a quarter of the painting was destroyed. The museum authorities undertook arduous restoration work, which lasted 12 years.
Danae was displayed again in 1997 behind bulletproof glass. According Associated pressthe then director of the museum, Mikhail Piotrovsky, sadly said NTV television, “The old Danae no longer exists and we have to come to terms with the idea. What we have is beauty disfigured, yet preserved.
Mary Richardson, a suffragette, used a meat cleaver to damage Diego Velázquez’s 17th-century masterpiece at the National Gallery in London in 1914. She slashed the painting seven times.
Richardson did this to protest the arrest of suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst.
“I tried to destroy the image of the most beautiful woman in mythological history to protest against the government for destroying Mrs. Pankhurst, who is the most beautiful character in modern history,” she said. later in a press release.
Richardson was sentenced to six months and the painting was restored. In 1952, the activist also revealed that she disliked the way male visitors eyed the painting.
The white cross
The white cross is an early 20th-century painting by Russian artist Kazimir Malevich and is part of his Suprematism collection, along with abstract works such as Red Square and black square.
The painting shows the cross symbol in white on an almost white background. Housed in the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, the work was vandalized when an artist named Alexander Brener painted a green dollar sign on the cross in 1997.
Brener, who defended his action by saying he was an artist, sparked a debate in Amsterdam society about what constitutes art and what explains “terrorism”.
by American artist Helen Frankenthaler The Bay, a classic modern painting from 1963, is housed at the Detroit Institute of Arts in the United States. It became the target of an act of vandalism, possibly innocently committed by a 12-year-old boy in 2006.
The boy, who was visiting the museum on a school trip, stuck chewing gum on the board. At the time, it was worth $1.5 million and was the most valuable painting in the museum.
Although the gum did no permanent damage, restoration work on the vandalized artwork had to be undertaken to remove a small stain from the corner.
Unfortunately, the boy was suspended by the school.
Known as one of the most famous acts of vandalism of works of art, the work of Pablo Picasso Guernica was attacked in 1974. It’s not just because of the illustrious creator, but the eventual fame of the man who vandalized it – Tony Shafrazi.
Shafrazi sprayed the words “Kill Lies All” on the painting while it was on display at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, USA. He was protesting against the pardon granted to American soldier William Calley, condemned for his involvement in the My Lai massacre in Vietnam, by then American President Richard Nixon.
According The New York Timeswhen taken away by the police, Shafrazi shouted, “I am an artist and I wanted to tell the truth.”
The painting was not damaged due to the thick layer of varnish it wore. The red ink from the spray paint was quickly removed by museum curators.
Guernica is a masterpiece by the legendary Picasso, created in grey, black and white in 1937 in protest against the bombardment of the Basque town of Guernica by the fascist allies of General Francisco Franco during the Spanish Civil War.
And what about Shafrazi? Today he is one of the biggest names in art dealership, having established the Tony Shafrazi Gallery. He also helped bring iconic graffiti artists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat to the international market.
Black on brown
The 1958 work by American abstract painter Mark Rothko was on display at the Tate Modern gallery in London when it was vandalized by artist and blogger Wlodzimierz Umaniec in 2012.
Using a black marker, Umaniec wrote the words “A potential piece of yellowing” on one corner of Black on brown.
Prior to his arrest, Umaniec spoke to the BBC and defended himself by saying that “art allows us to take what someone has done and put a new message to it”. He also said he was part of a movement called “Yellowism”, which believed in the concept of “no art or anti-art”.
After his release from prison nearly a year and a half later, he apologized to the British people for his actions.
Meanwhile, it took the Tate Modern gallery 18 months to restore the vandalized artwork before putting it back on display in 2014. After a successful restoration, then-restorer Rachel Barker said BBC that the museum “thought of the worst” when the painting was damaged.
This story first appeared on Lifestyle Asia India