Mona Lisa in English breakfast tea attack
Peter Allen, in Paris
A woman was being held in Paris today after attacking the Mona Lisa with a cup of English breakfast tea.
A ceramic mug full of the steaming brew was emptied all over the most famous work of art in the world in front of stunned security guards at the French capital’s Louvre Museum.
They wrestled the Russian to the ground following the attack on August 2nd a Sunday – which has only just been reported.
Leonardo Da Vinci’s priceless masterpiece, which is known at La Joconde in France, is surrounded by bullet-proof glass which is also designed to resist heat, humidity and vibrations.
‘The painting is intact and unharmed, but this violent attack was hugely worrying,’ said a source at the museum.
‘The woman ordered a cup of English breakfast tea in a museum cafi before heading for La Joconde and flinging the liquid all over it.
‘She was arrested by security guards immediately and the police were called. She is still being held while enquiries continue.’
The Mona Lisa, which portrays an enigmatic 16th Century Italian woman, was visited by 8.5 million people last year.
Its fame is often attributed to its troubled history, with theft and vandalism often carried out by people with a mental disorder known as Stendhal syndrome – confusion and irrational behaviour caused by being exposed to fine art.
In 1956 acid was thrown at the painting and in a second attack in the same year it was further damaged when a rock was thrown at it.
The Mona Lisa had also suffered superficial damage when an Italian museum employee stole it from the Louvre in 1911 before being caught two years later when he tried to sell it back to his home country.
Cleaning and re-varnishing has taken place ever since Da Vinci finished working on the painting in around 1507.
In 2005 the Mona Lisa was moved to a supposedly secure, climate controlled location in the Louvre’s Salle des Etats.
The last major attack on a Paris masterpieces came in October 2007 when Claude Monet’s Bridge at Argenteuil was punched by a drunk youth who had broken into the Orsay museum.
And in January 2008 a Mathematics professor broke a statue of the classical philosopher Seneque in the Louvre.
Following the latest attack on the Mona Lisa, a Paris police spokesman said: ‘A woman was immediately arrested on August 2nd. She is still being held and questioned following psychiatric tests.
‘The attack took place on the first Sunday of the month, when works of art at the Louvre are open to the public for free. Crowds are naturally far larger, and everything is done to prevent these types of attack.’