Eugène Delacroix, “Liberty Leading the People” (1830), oil on canvas, 102.4 × 128 inches (image via Wikipedia)

What is it with art vandalism these days? First there was the Picasso at the Menil Collection last summer, then the Rothko at the Tate Modern. Now a woman has defaced Delacroix’s “Liberty Leading the People” at an outpost of the Louvre. Is this some kind of weird, terrible trend?

Sometime late in the day yesterday, a young woman tagged the iconic French painting with a black permanent marker, reports. She wrote “AE911” on the bottom right corner of the work, in an area measuring 30 inches long by 6 inches high, according to the AFP. The total work measures 8 1/2 feet wide and nearly 11 feet high.

The strangest part of the story is what “AE911” means, or might mean. Some are speculating that the abbreviation might refer to a group of 9/11 truthers, “Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth,” who believe that the destruction of the Twin Towers on September 11 could not have been caused by the terrorist planes alone. AE911 has a website and an online petition calling for Congress to conduct a “truly independent investigation” into 9/11, but at the moment — perhaps because of the news reports about the Louvre painting — the site appears to be down.

What a 9/11 conspiracy theory has to do with Eugène Delacroix’s “Liberty Leading the People” isn’t at all clear, if that even is the intended meaning of the vandalism tag. The painting, done in 1830, is a canonical work of art commemorating the second French Revolution. An allegorical stand-in for Liberty, who notably appears as a fairly realistic, flesh-and-blood woman, leads revolutionaries from all social classes as she raises the tricolor flag, and as they step over a mound of dead bodies, which suggest that victory is hard won and not to be taken lightly. Perhaps Delacroix’s dramatic celebration of the French people’s triumph over the monarch who held them down inspired a truther interested in uncovering the presumably dark and sinister workings of the US government … ?! Still, I can think of a lot more relevant symbols to target, and if these crazy or attention-seeking people really insist on tagging things, I suggest they go find some outdoor walls.

While France24 said Louvre officials were still waiting on museum experts to determine the extent of the damage, the AFP reports that the vandalism is “superficial” and that the painting, which was hanging at the Louvre’s recently opened satellite museum in the city of Lens, should be cleaned fairly easily. The vandal is under arrest.

h/t @GiovanniGF

Jillian Steinhauer is a former senior editor of Hyperallergic. She writes largely about the intersection of art...

26 replies on “Woman Vandalizes Iconic Delacroix Painting at the Louvre”

  1. “What a 9/11 conspiracy theory has to do with Eugène Delacroix’s “Liberty
    Leading the People” isn’t at all clear, if that even is the intended
    meaning of the vandalism tag.”

    Perhaps it was chosen simply because it’s a very famous painting, and the “tagging” was sure to be reported on far and wide, and curious reporters would no doubt explore this mysterious AE911, and even provide handy links to their Truther-nonsense website!

    Publicizing the causes of these lunatics has basically no upside other than to satisfy curiosity, but it can surely serve as an example to every other asshole with a movement/cause to promote.

    1. I definitely get your point, Monsoonking, but I feel a bit torn on this. It’s not like I want to say, LOOK AT THESE TRUTHER PPL THEY’RE AWESOME. But we are, in part, an art-news site, so to not report this would seem like a glaring omission.

      1. Yes. I guess the defacement of art doesn’t exactly lend a lot of credibility to cause. Though, these people probably don’t excel at thinking things through.

          1. If you want to see glaring omissions, you should look at the 911 commission report.
            The Report fails to acknowledge that no steel-framed high-rise building has ever collapsed due to fires.
            The Report fails to mention the total collapse of 47-story steel-framed skyscraper Building 7 at 5:20 on the day of the attack.
            The Report contains no mention of the interview in which the owner of Building 7 states that he and the Fire Department decided to “pull” Building 7 — an apparent admission of a conspiracy to destroy the building and its contents.
            The Report fails to mention the rapid removal and recycling of the structural steel from the collapsed World Trade Center buildings, even to make excuses for it.
            The Report makes no mention of a statement by then-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani to Peter Jennings indicating he had foreknowledge of the collapses: “We were operating out of there when we were told that the World Trade Center was gonna collapse, and it did collapse before we could get out of the building.”
            The Report contains no mentions of eyewitness accounts of explosions preceding the collapse of South Towers.
            The Report fails to mention that George W. Bush’s brother, Marvin Bush, and his cousin, Wirt Walker III, were principals in the company that had the contract to provide security for the World Trade Center, Stratesec, nor does it mention the company.
            The Report makes no mention of the fact that a new lessor took control of the World Trade Center complex just six weeks before the attack, obtained an insurance policy covering terrorist attacks, and successfully sued the insurance companies to obtain twice the multi-billion-dollar value of the policy.
            The Report repeats the list of 19 suspects identified by the FBI within days of the attack, while failing to mention that six of them reported themselves alive after the attack.
            The Report fails to mention any of the reports of behavior by the alleged hijackers before the attack that belie the official story that they were devout Muslims on a suicide mission for Allah.
            The Report fails to mention that the published passenger lists contained no Arab names — a fact publicized by skeptics of the official story.
            The Report fails to ask why the plane that crashed into the Pentagon was not stopped by anti-aircraft missile batteries that presumably ring the building.
            The Report fails to mention that no credible footage of the Pentagon attack has been made public, despite public knowledge that the FBI seized footage of the attack from nearby businesses.
            The Report does not ask why the Secret Service did not obtain air cover for the President’s motorcade from the Sarasota school to the airport, nor for Air Force One, which took off at about 9:54, until about 11:10.
            The Report avoids mentioning several reports that government officials and business leaders received warnings and avoided targets of the attacks, including:

            A warning by the FBI advising Attorney General John Ashcroft to avoid flying on commercial airlines.
            The report that Pentagon officials suddenly canceled travel plans the evening before the attack.
            A warning to San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown to avoid flying.
            The grounding of Salman Rushdie by Scotland Yard.

            The Report avoids mentioning a warning received by employees of Odigo hours before the attack.
            The Report does not mention that letters with weaponized anthrax were sent to the two most powerful senators attempting to slow the passage of the 9/11/01 attack-predicated USA PATRIOT Act.
            The Report states that the Commission was “chartered to prepare a full and complete account of the circumstances surrounding the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, including preparedness for and the immediate response to the attacks,” but fails to mention that it makes no attempt to meet its charter.

            Maybe you should think all that though, you think?

          2. I’m trying to get this through my head. So, the US government rounded up a few hundred people, including suicidal pilots, airline officials, demolition crews, fire fighters, New York City bureaucrats, and countless others. They put them all in a room.

            US Gov: Hey guys, glad you could make it. We’ve got this plan to blow up some New York skycrapers, kill thousands of people, and destroy 10’s of billions worth of property.
            Would be Conspirators: That sounds like a horrible idea. Why would we do that?
            USG: We need a pretext for blowing some shit up in the middle east.
            WBC: Why don’t we just pretend those guys have weapons of mass destruction or something?
            USG: Nah, this will be better. Trust us guys, this is going to be awesome.
            WBC: OK, let’s do it. And we’ll all take this to our grave! George W forever!

            Seems pretty plausible. Consider me truthed.

          3. You have to be careful not to jump to conclusion though. That’s one thing that I really like about AE911; they cut though all that speculation. They look solely at the physical science and they show that the evidence points to controlled demolition of 3 World Trade Center towers on 911, 1,2&7. That’s huge.
            Now, what you do with that is another issue but you can’t discount the science just because you don’t understand how they were able to pull it off. First you have to look at what did happen, then you can start trying to figure out who, how and why.

    2. The relevance has to do with all the tyranny that has been catalyzed by the criminal act of 911. Exposing those crimes including the criminal coverup is an act of Leading People back to Liberty. I’m sure people like you understand that art is more than just shapes and colors on a canvas. The message this painting conveys is as much a part of the art as the shapes and colors that are use to express it. This picture obviously spoke to the vandal. AE911Truth is leading the charge of Liberty with the scientific evidence of controlled demolition on 911.
      The picture attached shows the free-fall acceleration of World Trade Center Building number 7. Free-fall acceleration is only possible in a controlled demolition. WTC7 was not even mentioned in the 911 commission report and the government never even tested for explosives, even though it was standard protocol for fire investigations.

  2. “This type of aggression will not stand man.” If the only publicity you can get involves defacing treasured museum works, perhaps your message isn’t relevant.

    Europe really needs to re-evaluate their laws when it comes to art defacement and theft.

    1. I don’t know the specifics of the laws or how uniform they are across countries, but I do wonder if some of this has to do with budget cuts and therefore looser security at museums? But that’s just a conjecture from across the sea.

      1. The laws are not uniform across Europe. It errs towards being lax because of this but also I think it is because art ranks lower on the totem pole. Since EC is becoming more homogeneous I believe prosecution is difficult to carry out. If a Greek defaces a French work in France, is prosecuted in France and then returned to Greece for sentencing, the Greek government could just release the offender based on the current fiscal situation and inability to house a nonviolent prisoner. It would be better to levy a fine.

        If you steal art, the penalties are negligible because the secondary market for stolen art doesn’t pay well. So instead of being charged with stealing millions of dollars in art, you’re charged with theft based on the price you could sell the work.

        Here’s an article if you get bored during the blizzard:

        I’m less familiar with defacement, but I can’t imagine that you could be charged with a stiffer penalty for defacing a work than you could for stealing one. After all what would be worse, requiring a touch up or the possibility that the work may never be seen again?

      2. I work in one of London’s most important galleries and we’re paid less than the living wage. To protect some of the most valuable paintings of the world. So, probably yes.

    2. So, you want more laws. How’s this?…Because of the 911 false flag attack and the endless fraudulent war on terror, we are now having more and more precious civil liberties removed, …by the Patriot Act, the Military Commissions Act, Department of Homeland Security, Transportation Security Administration and the National Defense Authorization Act. Americans as well as anyone in the world can now be subject to search and seizure without a warrant, detained or imprisoned indefinitely, without charge, without evidence, without a lawyer, without a trial, or even tortured, or assassinated by the US military, CIA or US Secret Service, merely for being *accused* of association with terrorism. Can you say “Drone Strikes”?
      The painting was restored and there is no need to need to further suppress the freedom of expression.

        1. Glad you said that. I failed to mention that it was Obama, the Drone King who signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in to law on New Years Eve last year. Romney also supported the bill. The bill basically allows the president to disappear anyone who doesn’t go along to get along. All he has to do is call you a terrorist. That word is getting way too much play these days.

  3. This act of vandalism was not sanctioned by AE911Truth. In fact, they have posted a public statement on their website condemning the act.
    AE911truth is not a conspiracy theory organization. They are scientists who study how 3 World Trade Center buildings were destroyed and they present scientific evidence of controlled demolition.

  4. It has no relation to the painting. Nutjobs like this woman (which does not include everyone asking reasonable questions about what went on on 9/11) find their conspiracy theory more important than anything else in the world. Its a symptom of gross self-centeredness.

    1. Wrong. This woman is the embodiment of the woman in the painting.
      Her actions came as a result of self sacrifice for the betterment of mankind.
      How many issues can you name that are bigger than controlled demolition on 911?
      The only one I can think of is the Federal Reserve scam.
      Consider that most of the major issues in the world today lead back to 911.
      And btw, she’s not a conspiracy theorist. AE911 only looks at the science.

      1. Its not quite self-sacrifice, nor has her vandalizing a Delacroix made the world better for mankind. Even setting aside the question of validity, you folks are a bunch of self-important ass clowns… and that is a large part of why so few people have any time for what you have to say.

        1. Okay, so she got arrested for a cause but that was not self sacrifice?
          I’d say she has made the world a better place because some people are learning about controlled demolition on 911 who otherwise might not have. AE911 had 60,000 hits after this event. You can call them ass clowns if you want but that won’t change the science. And anyway, you’re wrong about that being the reason folks won’t look at the evidence. All that is, is an invalid excuse. That’s just a way of skirting around personal responsibility. Even if they were a bunch of ass clowns, the responsibility to take notice and to take action is still with everyone who hears the claim.
          That’s like saying, “Yeah, I know that 3000 people were murdered on 911 and about 1 million more have died or been displace since then because of it but I’m not going to look at the evidence or respond to it because the people who are bringing the evidence to us are a bunch ass clowns”. Excuse me. If you think you can do a better job, then please do.
          I’ve heard just about every excuse there is and this one is just about one of the weakest ones I’ve heard yet. And, it’s not even accurate.
          Meet the experts

          1. Good lord… even being somewhat sympathetic to your cause, my eyes just glaze over as soon as you self-important gasbags start your diatribes.

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