The world’s most famous painting was the focus of yet another demonstration on Sunday. when activists from environmental group Riposte Alimentaire splattered Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa with pumpkin soup. The protest at famed Paris museum the Louvre was an effort to draw attention to food insecurity in France, the organization said. The painting, which is encased in a sheet of bulletproof glass, was not damaged in the incident.
According to a statement released by the Louvre, “Two activists from the environmental movement ‘Riposte Alimentaire’ sprayed pumpkin soup on the armoured glass protecting the Mona Lisa, this Sunday, January 28, 2024, around 10 am (4 am ET). The Louvre’s security staff immediately intervened … The museum will lodge a complaint.”
In security video from the action, one can see two women throw the liquid onto the well-shielded 16th-century painting, as the crowd in the Salle des Etats display area gasps. The duo duck beneath a barrier and stand beside the painting, as one unveils a t-shirt with “Riposte Alimentaire” written across her chest.
“What is more important? Art or the right to have a healthy and sustainable food system?” the New York Times translates the women as saying in French.
“Our agricultural system is sick. Our farmers are dying at work,” the BBC quotes them as saying.
Via X (formerly Twitter), Riposte Alimentaire—which, in English, can be read as “Food Counterattack”—took credit for the action, and wrote that “Sasha (24) and Marie-Juliette (63) demand the establishment of Sustainable Food Social Security.”
“In France, one in three people skip meals due to lack of means. At the same time, 20% of the food produced is thrown away,” the group said in a subsequent tweet.
The group is asking that “food be added to the social security safety net and each resident be given a card topped up with 150 euros ($162) a month to buy ‘democratically selected’ pre-approved products,” Time reports. This proposal to change French societal support comes as farmers in the country’s agricultural areas block roads as a protest against governmental regulations and rising fuel prices.
As the women were led away by Louvre security, staffers attempted to hide the mess with black, cloth screens, USA Today notes, while other workers hustled to evacuate the room. It reopened to visitors later that day.
This isn’t the first attack on the Mona Lisa, a painting that was famously (albeit fictionally) destroyed in Rian Johnson film Glass Onion. A former Louvre employee stole the painting in 1911 and kept it hidden for about two years. In 1956, it faced a wave of defacements: razor blade, acid, and a tossed rock, The Week reports. That’s when it got the glass covering that shielded it from future incidents, including a thrown mug in 2009 and a pastry smear in 2022.
Regarding this latest attack, French Minister for Culture Rachida Dati was firm. “The Mona Lisa, like our heritage, belongs to future generations,” she wrote on X. “No cause can justify it being targeted!”