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The cake attack isn't the first time 'Mona Lisa' has been targeted over the years


At the Louvre in Paris, yesterday started as a normal day. Museumgoers lined up, waiting for their turn to take a look at, maybe snap a photo of Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa.


Suddenly, a man disguised as an old woman jumped out of a wheelchair. Shocked bystanders watched as he threw a piece of cake at the bulletproof glass protecting the painting.



CHANG: As security guards are escorting him out, he yells in French, think of the Earth. There are people who are destroying the Earth. Think about it. Artists tell you, think of the Earth. That's why I did this.

Luckily, the painting was unharmed. Social media posts showed smeared icing on its glass.

KELLY: This is not the first time the painting has come under attack. The Mona Lisa is kept behind bulletproof glass for a reason. It's safe to say the Mona Lisa has been through a lot.

CAMMY BROTHERS: Let's see - so there was apparently one in '56 - sulfuric acid.

CHANG: That's Cammy Brothers. She's an associate professor of art history at Northeastern University. She's a specialist on Renaissance art. That acid attack she's describing is why the Mona Lisa is behind glass today.

BROTHERS: Another person then that same year for some reason threw a rock at it and chipped the glass and damaged the painting ever so slightly.

KELLY: Then when it was in Tokyo on tour in 1974, someone sprayed red paint on the glass. Then came 2009, when someone threw hot coffee, shattering the mug, not the glass.

CHANG: So what is it about the Mona Lisa that causes such outbursts?

BROTHERS: I'm not sure that I feel like there's anything about the painting itself that elicits this reaction. I think it's very much the kind of mystique that is created culturally around it.

KELLY: Whatever his motive, the Associated Press reports that the suspect in yesterday's attack was detained and taken for psychiatric treatment. And as for the Mona Lisa, she's still smiling from behind her glass. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Linah Mohammad
Prior to joining NPR in 2022, Mohammad was a producer on The Washington Post's daily flagship podcast Post Reports, where her work was recognized by multiple awards. She was honored with a Peabody award for her work on an episode on the life of George Floyd.
Kathryn Fox