Mug Attack at the Louvre, Mona Lisa Unscarred

By Sadie Bass

Aug 11, 2009 11:25am

ABC's Maeva Bambuck reports from London: We have learned today that a woman tossed a terracotta mug at the Mona Lisa during a visit to the Louvre museum in Paris, a couple of weekends ago.  The pretty bizarre incident happened on the first Sunday of August, when the museum traditionally opens its doors for free, and therefore attracts much larger crowds. The woman, of Russian origin, is said to have been upset at not being granted French citizenship and chose this as her act of protest. The Mona Lisa is of course protected by a thick bullet-proof casing, and wasn’t damaged. The mug bounced against the glass case and shattered on the floor. The constant surveillance for the most viewed painting in the world — 8.5 million people visited it last year – means that security surrounded the woman promptly.   “The visit was briefly interrupted to give time for security to remove the broken mug pieces from the ground, and take the woman out,” David Madec, a museum official told ABC News, “but the room was never closed.” Nevertheless, the incident is pretty embarrassing for the Louvre, which could explain the two week pause between the incident and the news that it had occurred. To make matters worse, the British tabloids refer to the weapon as a “cup of English breakfast tea,” despite the museum saying the mug was empty. Frankly, without eyewitness account, it is impossible to know whether the British tabloids are once again criticizing the French (a national pastime) or if the museum is trying to further downplay the incident. The woman was arrested and underwent psychiatric evaluation. She has since been released, but may face legal action from the museum. Le Parisien, which first ran the story, reported that far from not appreciating art, the woman may have been suffering from Stendhal syndrome, a condition in which the overexposure to art, especially beautiful art, causes dizziness, confusion and even hallucinations. The phenomenon was named after the author of The Red and The Black who experienced it when visiting Florence, in Italy. The museum, however, dismissed any common trait between the attacker and the French literary giant. “The woman was most likely deranged,” Madec said, “or desirous to bring attention to herself.” Witnesses say the Mona Lisa brushed the whole incident off with a smile.

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