Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa may be one of the most beloved artworks in the world. Seen by millions of people each year, it is considered to be the crown jewel of the Louvre’s collection, an iconic work of the Renaissance, and a painting that is impossible to value because it is seen as being priceless. It has also been the target of theft and vandalism on several occasions.
Since the start of the 20th century, the painting, which was acquired by France in 1797, has had spray paint and a teacup thrown at it. This week, it was caked. In 1956 alone, two vandals tried to use a razor blade and a rock to defile it on separate occasions. Each time, the Mona Lisa has emerged without damage. (All of this doesn’t count the various artists who have altered the Mona Lisa’s image, among the Marcel Duchamp, who famously put a mustache on a reproduction of the Leonardo painting, or the era during World War II when the painting risked being seized by the Nazis during their occupation of France.)
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In short, the Mona Lisa has faced so much potential damage that even Salvador Dalí was once moved to speak on all the vandalism, attributing to the painting “a power, unique in all art history, to provoke the most violent and different kinds of aggressions.”
To look back on this unusual art-historical lineage, ARTnews has charted below five times in which the Mona Lisa was vandalized or stolen.