Two environmental protesters have hurled soup at the Mona Lisa at the Louvre in Paris, calling for “healthy and sustainable food”. The painting, which was behind bulletproof glass, appeared to be undamaged.
Gallery visitors looked on in shock as two women threw the yellow-coloured soup before climbing under the barrier in front of the work and flanking the splattered painting, their right hands held up in a salute-like gesture.
One of the two activists removed her jacket to reveal a white T-shirt bearing the slogan of the environmental activist group Riposte Alimentaire (Food Response) in black letters.
“What’s the most important thing?” they shouted. “Art, or right to a healthy and sustainable food?” They added: “Our farming system is sick. Our farmers are dying at work.”
Footage posted on X captured the attack on Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece as well as the gasps of visitors and the cries of children apparently shocked by the incident.
Louvre staff scrambled quickly to erect black cloth screens around the painting and the protesters but failed to effectively block the view of the scene. Paris police said two people were arrested following the incident.
The action, which comes as French farmers protest across the country, is the latest in a string of similar attacks against artworks to demand more action to protect the planet.
Riposte Alimentaire is part of the A22 umbrella movement of protest groups in 12 countries, which also includes Just Stop Oil.
In a statement sent to AFP, it said the soup throwing marked the “start of a campaign of civil resistance with the clear demand … of the social security of sustainable food”.
French farmers have been protesting for days to demand better pay, taxes and regulations. The government has been trying to keep discontent among agricultural workers from spreading months ahead of European parliament elections, which are seen as a key test for Emmanuel Macron’s government.
Questions were being asked as to how the women managed to smuggle the soup into the Louvre, as strict bag controls at most major galleries are now normal practice due to numerous other attacks on paintings, including a 2022 mashed potato attack by Letzte Generation (Last Generation) activists on Claude Monet’s Les Meules (Haystacks) at the Barberini gallery in Potsdam, Germany. Those activists subsequently glued their hands to a wall.
Prior to that, Just Stop Oil poured tomato soup over Vincent van Gogh’s Sunflowers at the National Gallery in London.
The Mona Lisa has been behind glass since a Bolivian man threw a rock at it in December 1956, damaging the left elbow of the woman in the picture.
A man threw a custard pie at the painting in May 2022, saying artists were not focusing enough on “the planet”. . The glass was made bulletproof in 2005.
In 2009, a woman threw an empty teacup at the painting, which slightly scratched the case.