A woman looks at Eugene Delacroix's 'Liberty Leading the People' in the Le Louvre Lens Museum, in Lens, northern France, in December last year. The painting was defaced in an attack by a woman this week. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol/Files
A woman has defaced Eugene Delacroix's painting "Liberty
Leading the People" with a black marker as it hung in an
outpost of the Louvre gallery in northern France.
Police arrested a 28-year-old woman on Thursday (local time)
for writing "AE911" across the bottom of a painting so
closely identified with the French Republic that its image
once graced the 100-franc note and it has been reproduced on
Painted in 1830, the work was on loan from the main Louvre in
Paris to the new Louvre-Lens gallery in northern France
inaugurated last December by President Francois Hollande.
"AE911Truth" is the name of a website called "Architects
& Engineers for 9/11 Truth" whose backers say they are
seeking to establish the truth of the September 11, 2001
suicide airliner attacks on New York's Twin Towers.
"It had really become an icon, a sort of symbol of the
Republic which has remained famous throughout the ages," said
Vincent Pomarede, head of the Louvre's painting department.
"We have a very passionate relationship with all our
paintings and when something like this happens it's really
hard to handle," he said.
Delacroix's "Liberty Leading the People" was painted after
the 1830 July Revolution as a symbol of reconciliation
following the overthrow of Bourbon King Charles X and the
ascent to the throne of his cousin Louis-Philippe, Duke of
The work, depicting a bare-breasted woman brandishing a
tricolour flag and leading her people over the bodies of the
fallen, was later adopted as a revolutionary emblem in the
1848 uprising which overthrew the Orleans monarchy.
It subsequently disappeared from public view before
resurfacing in the Louvre after the advent of the Third
Republic in 1871, after which its place in the French
national consciousness was sealed.
The Louvre confirmed on Friday it had managed to save the
painting as the black marker had not penetrated the upper
layer of varnish and has been successfully removed.
Opened in December, the 150 million euro ($195 million) art
centre in Lens houses temporary exhibitions as well as a
rotating collection of works from the Louvre museum in Paris.
It was conceived in an effort to regenerate a dreary northern
region of France, once known for its mining industry, but now
in economic decline.
While the Louvre in Paris looks out onto manicured lawns and
flowerbeds of the Tuileries Gardens, Louvre-Lens sits on a
disused coalmine and offers views onto slag heaps and a
stadium housing the local football club.