A famous 183-year-old French painting of a flag-bearing woman leading fighters across the bodies of the fallen has been defaced by a museum-goer with a black marker at a recently launched adjunct to the Louvre museum in northern France.
19th century French artist Eugene Delacroix’s iconic painting Liberty Leading the People pays homage to the French Revolution of 1830 (sometimes referred to as the “July Revolution”) in which Charles X was deposed and replaced by his cousin Louis-Philippe. Among other things, it’s thought to have inspired a street urchin in Victor Hugo’s novel Les Misérables, and it’s appeared on a variety of objects ranging from Irish postage stamps and France’s 100-franc note to the cover of one of British rock band Coldplay’s albums.
But last Thursday, an unnamed 28-year-old woman walked into the Louvre-Lens — a recently opened satellite of the Louvre museum in in the city of Lens, about 50 miles south of Calais — pulled out a black marker and scribbled “AE911” in the painting’s bottom right-hand corner. The tag is a reference to the website AE911Truth, or “Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth” — a self-described “non-partisan association” that focuses on 9/11 conspiracy theories. The woman was immediately arrested by police.
AE911Truth has denied any association with the woman, writing on its site shortly after the news broke:
We do not know if this act of vandalism was done in reference to our organization. Whether or not this is true, Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth (AE911Truth) condemns and deplores the defacing of this priceless work of art and all public and private property. Our code of conduct requires all of our volunteers to abide by the laws, rules, and regulations of society.
Fortunately the painting itself escaped permanent damage: The Independent reports the characters have been removed from the painting by an art conservator without damaging the underlying artwork, and that the painting is back on public display.