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The face of France is defaced. C’est la vie, 2013

The defining portrait of French freedom, La Liberté guidant le peuple, le 28 juillet 1830, by Eugène Delacroix has been defaced by a disturbed visitor to the new Louvre offshoot at Lens. The lower part of the canvas was blackened with a marker by a woman of 28, who was dragged off by guards before she could inflict too much damage. It was a major security breach and there will have to be an investigation. The consequence will be more barriers, more distance, between the public and the public art. Welcome to the 21st century.

La Galerie du temps du Louvre-Lens

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  1. Without really knowing the circumstances of the incident or condition of the perpetrator, one can only speculate.
    This painting is grounded on a significant political theme, and it is entirely possible that the person was not mentally disturbed but just disturbed, and was making a political statement about the present contradictions and injustice of French foreign and other policies which are threatening to plunge the nation into a neocolonial crisis. Or, maybe, like former Attorney General (and preacher) John Ashcroft who tried to cover the upper body of the sculpture of a similar female likeness of justice in front of the national office of the FBI, she was offended by the bare breasts. Black magic marker should be easy for the conservators to clean, unless it is lacquer based and infused with gorilla glue, in which case the exposed breasts would be at risk.

  2. Why was there not glass protecting the canvas? That seems such a basic thing for a picture of such historical importance.

    • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

      In general, there is no protective glass for works of art in any French museum because of the negative effects of reflected light on satisfactory viewing of the object. Exceptions are works that are very fragile and/or have been damaged in some way; and of course, the Mona Lisa in the Louvre (Paris), which, having been stolen once in the early 20th century, is protected by armored glass and other security devices (and quite a few guards).

      The damaged painting in Lens, according to current reports, will be cleaned on site and availble for viewing within a few days. They have the writing device which she used and have already tried removal of the ink on a test canvas. She wrote the inscription: AE9/11 (which refers to Architects and Engineers for Truth concerning 9/ll; they question the collapse of the twin towers as a result of the plane crashes and resulting fires). Was she a wacko? Maybe, but one with a specific purpose and message. She faces a fine of up to 100K Euros and multiple years in prison, if convicted.

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