Art History

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Famous Vandalism on Paintings

In order for a great piece of art to be shared, it must be made accessible to the people. This can sometimes lead to theft or even vandalism. Most often when a piece of art is vandalized, it is to make a statement, possibly political in nature. That only adds to the notoriety and fame of the painting. Here are some of the most famous acts of art vandalism against famous paintings.

Leonardo Da Vinci, The Mona Lisa (vandalized 1956, 1974, 2009)

This painting is one of the most famous in art history and has also been the victim of art vandalism a great deal during its time. Painted in 1503, this piece by Leonardo has been attacked four times, including twice in the same year. In 1956 the lower half of the painting was attacked with acid while later that year it was chipped by a rock thrown at it. In 1974, after being placed behind bullet proof glass, a woman spray painted over the top. The final attack, thus far, was when a visitor threw a mug, that had been purchased in the gift shop.

Updated to add: The Mona Lisa has been struck again. This time, in May of 2022, the masterpiece was smeared with cake frosting. A man disguised in a wig and pretending to be disable in a wheelchair, approached the piece during regular visitor hours and threw a pastry at it. Thankfully it only touched the art piece’s protective glass and no actual damage was done to the painting itself.

Rembrandt, The Night Watch (vandalized 1911, 1975, 1990)

This piece by famed artist Rembrandt was painted in 1642, and has been attacked numerous times, but only sustained damaged once. The first failed attempt was when a navy cook attacked it with a knife, but didn’t cut through the varnish layer. Then in 1990 someone threw acid on it but the substance was neutralized before any damage was done. In 1975 a former school teacher took a knife to the historic painting, slashing it repeatedly before guards were able to subdue him. Even after months of restoration, there are still some faint marks left behind where the canvas had been cut.

Claude Monet, Argenteuil Basin with a Single Sailboat (vandalized 2012)

In 2012, an angry museum visitor punched a hole in this painting by Monet. Originally, he was irate at the government and claimed he did it to get back at them. Later, when facing criminal charges, he attempted to change his story and say it was an accident and he fell into the painting. The jury did not believe his story and he served five years for the crime. It took over ten million dollars and a year and a half to restore the painting to its former glory.


These have all withstood the violent crimes against them and continue to provide beauty to all of their admirers. Browse our selection of paintings we have by these painters and find the perfect piece to add elegance to your home.

About the Author

Amanda graduated from the University of Kansas, where she studied English literature and got a masters degree in library sciences. She enjoys reading, cooking and playing with her nephews. Her best friend is her little dog Brady.