The Mona Lisa at the Louvre Museum in Paris (via Flickr)

The strangest thing happened at the Louvre Museum in Paris on Sunday, May 29. A climate activist disguised as a disabled woman in a wheelchair attempted to shatter the bulletproof protective glass of the museum’s most prized painting, Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, and when he failed, smeared cake all over it.

The 36-year-old man, who wore lipstick and a wig, was immediately arrested and placed in psychiatric care, the museum told Hyperallergic. No damage was caused to the painting.

Videos of the incident posted on social media show the activist being escorted out of the museum as he proclaimed: “There are people who are destroying the Earth … All artists, think about the Earth. That’s why I did this. Think of the planet.”

Other videos circulating online show museum staff cleaning the cake’s white frosting from the glass. The activist also threw roses on the floor, according to eyewitnesses.

In a statement to Hyperallergic, the Louvre confirmed that it has pressed charges against the vandal, whose name has not been disclosed. The Paris prosecutor’s office said it opened an inquiry into an attempt to vandalize a cultural work.

“The pâtisserie did not hit any part of the painting, which was not damaged in any way,” a spokesperson for the Louvre told Hyperallergic. “The museum salutes the professionalism of its security guards who reacted immediately to this incident. It also reminds the public that the safekeeping of national collections is central to its mission.” 

Hakim Bishara is a Senior Editor at Hyperallergic. He is a recipient of the 2019 Andy Warhol Foundation and Creative Capital Arts Writers Grant and he holds an MFA in Art Writing from the School of Visual...