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Mona Lisa Survives Pastry Attack From Louvre Visitor in Disguise

Social media videos show Louvre staff cleaning cream off the painting's protective glass.

Visitors in medical masks walk past the painting The Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci hanging on a dark wall at The Louvre Museum in Paris.
Visitors in 2021 walk past the Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci on display at The Louvre Museum in Paris.
Alain Jocard/AFP via Getty Images

A strange sight unfolded in videos shared on social media Sunday after a man dressed in a wig attempted to vandalize the Mona Lisa at the Louvre Museum in Paris. 

According to the AP, the man appeared to use a wig as a disguise and a wheelchair to get close to the painting before smearing a pastry on its case. Twitter user Lukeee posted a video of the man being escorted away while shouting a message exhorting people to think of the Earth, suggesting he may have had an environmental awareness motive for the attack. 

Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa, a 16th-century portrait of a woman with a hint of a smile, is one of the most famous paintings ever created. It's a centerpiece of the Louvre's collection and is exhibited inside a protective, humidity-controlled glass case. 

"This special treatment stems partly from the need to ensure the safety of such a famous work, but is also due to conservation requirements," according to the Louvre.

Twitter user Lukeee also shared a short video of a Louvre worker starting to clean cream or icing off the painting's case. Lukee described the incident as involving a man dressed as an elderly woman who attempted to smash the glass before smearing cake on it and throwing roses.

The 36-year-old man was detained and sent to a police psychiatric unit for evaluation, the AP reported.

The Mona Lisa's enduring popularity has been traced in part to the subject's enigmatic smile. The woman in the painting was Lisa Gherardini, the wife of a silk merchant. The portrait has endured indignities before, including a famous theft from the Louvre in 1911, though it was recovered two years later.

While the pastry attack was dramatic, the Mona Lisa was not in serious danger.