February 7, 2013
Eugène Delacroix’s painting Liberty Leading the People is vandalized at the Louvre-Lens Museum by a 28-year old woman who wrote “AE911” on its surface with a permanent black marker just before closing time. She was immediately confronted by a security guard and a visitor, and arrested.
The graffiti apparently refers to the 9/11 conspiracy group, Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth. Louvre conservators were able to remove the writing in less than two hours, without damaging the original paint. The artwork returned to public display the next morning.
The painting commemorates France’s July Revolution of 1830. It shows a woman personifying Liberty leading the French people forward over the bodies of the fallen, holding the French flag in one hand and a musket in the other. The painting is considered a national treasure in France, even appearing on French currency. It’s the highlight of the Louvre-Lens’ opening exhibition, and was the centerpiece of its marketing campaign. The museum had opened less than two months earlier, as a satellite of the Louvre in Paris. Liberty Leading the People has gained iconic status even outside of France, appearing on Irish stamps, and even the cover of a Coldplay album.
Fun Fact: The boy in the cap next to Liberty was the inspiration for Gavroche, a street child in Les Misérables (the novel, musical and movie).