The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Man in disguise attacks Mona Lisa with cream in apparent climate protest

A 36-year-old man disguised as an elderly woman in a wheelchair smeared a cake-like substance on the Mona Lisa at the Louvre in Paris on May 29. (Video: Reuters)
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A 36-year-old man disguised as an elderly woman in a wheelchair tried to smear a cakelike substance on the Mona Lisa on Sunday in an apparent climate-related protest at the Louvre in Paris. He has since been referred to a police psychiatric unit.

Videos circulated online of the man urging artists to “think of the Earth” after trying to break the protective glass around Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece, which was unharmed.

The Paris prosecutor’s office said Monday that it was opening an investigation into damage of cultural artifacts after hospitalizing the man, according to the Associated Press.

One video clip showed security guards escorting the man out as he yelled in French: “Think of the Earth. There are people who are destroying the Earth. Think about it. Artists tell you: Think of the Earth. That’s why I did this,” according to the AP.

Other clips showed staff cleaning off what appeared to be white cake or cream from the bulletproof protective glass around the 16th-century painting.

The Louvre did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Mona Lisa, housed in one of the world’s most storied museums, has been targeted before.

In 1911, the painting was stolen by a museum employee. In 1956, in two separate incidents, it was hit by acid and a rock, after which the painting was encased in glass to prevent further damage. Decades later, in 2009, a woman attacked it with a ceramic cup, the AP reported