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Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa (around 1503-19) was attacked at the Musée du Louvre, in Paris, today by environmental activists who threw soup over the world’s most-recognised and most-viewed painting. The celebrated portrait, which has been protected by security glass for the past 70 years, was not damaged in the attack.

In a video posted on X by the French news agency CLPRESS, two women members of the food protest group Riposte Alimentaire (“food response”) are seen approaching the semi-circular wooden barrier in front of the painting, before throwing soup at it and climbing under the barriers. They stand in front of the canvas, and are heard demanding, in French, the right to “healthy and sustainable food”, saying “our agricultural system is sick”. Security guards are then seen erecting black screens in front of the portrait and its soup-splattered protective glazing.

The “Salle des Etats”, the room housing the Mona Lisa, was evacuated but subsequently reopened.

A statement from the museum said: “Two activists from the environmental movement ‘Riposte Alimentaire’ sprayed pumpkin soup on the armoured glass … The Louvre’s security staff immediately intervened.” The Louvre said it would lodge a complaint. The Associate Press news agency reported that Paris police said they had arrested two people in connection with the incident.

Rachida Dati, the French minister of culture, said in a post on X that “no cause could justify [the Mona Lisa] being attacked”. The painting—known in France as “La Joconde” for the subject’s famously enigmatic smile—belongs, Dati said, “like all our heritage, to future generations. I send my support to the staff at the Louvre”.

The soup attack came during a weekend of agricultural protests in Paris, and just over two months since climate activists from the pressure group Just Stop Oil made a hammer attack on Diego Velazquez’s The Toilet of Venus (widely known as the “Rokeby Venus”) at the National Gallery, in London, on 6 November. (The “Rokeby Venus” was removed from display for conservation treatment to minor damage sustained to the painting surface, and the fitting of new glazing, before being re-hung four weeks later.)

The Week in Art

‘How dare YOU?’: we speak to Just Stop Oil, the eco activists who threw soup over Van Gogh’s Sunflowers

Just Stop Oil and Riposte Alimentaire, along with Extinction Rebellion, are part of the A22 network of protest groups in 12 countries. “We are an international network ​racing to save humanity,” the movement says on its website. “We have a ​recipe for effective civil resistance.”

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