Environmental activists attempt to vandalize the Mona Lisa

Visitors wearing protective face masks line up to see Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa at the Louvre Museum in Paris, France in 2020. Protesters attempted to deface the Mona Lisa Sunday by throwing soup at the masterpiece, which was unharmed. EPA-EFE/CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON
Visitors wearing protective face masks line up to see Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa at the Louvre Museum in Paris, France in 2020. Protesters attempted to deface the Mona Lisa Sunday by throwing soup at the masterpiece, which was unharmed. EPA-EFE/CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON

Jan. 28 (UPI) -- Environmental activists in Paris threw pumpkin-colored soup at the Mona Lisa Sunday, expressing their concerns over the world's agricultural and food systems, and what they feel is an insufficient response from world leaders, the Louvre announced Sunday.

The iconic painting is protected by heavy, bullet-proof glass and was apparently not damaged.

"What is more important? Art or the right to have a healthy and sustainable food system?" the activists said, speaking in French. "Our agricultural system is sick." They were removed by Louvre security guards.

It appeared there was no logical tie between throwing soup at the Mona Lisa and expressing anger over agricultural policies and food systems.

"Two activists from the environmental movement 'Riposte Alimentaire' sprayed pumpkin soup on the armoured glass protecting the Mona Lisa, this Sunday, January 28, 2024, around 10am (4aET)," a statement from the museum said.

Visitors to the Louvre jostle for photos of the Mona Lisa. The Louvre announced in 2022 that it would limit the number of visitors to the museum to enhance the experience. Protesters Sunday attempted to deface the masterpiece by throwing soup at it. Photo by Mika Baumeister/Unsplash
Visitors to the Louvre jostle for photos of the Mona Lisa. The Louvre announced in 2022 that it would limit the number of visitors to the museum to enhance the experience. Protesters Sunday attempted to deface the masterpiece by throwing soup at it. Photo by Mika Baumeister/Unsplash

"The Louvre's security staff immediately intervened."

'Riposte Alimentaire' translates to "Food Response."

The room that houses the Mona Lisa, the "Salle des Etats," was closed briefly but reopened after visitors, who gasped when the protestors threw the soup at the 16th-century masterpiece, had been removed.

The vandals, two females, reportedly ducked under a barrier around the site of the painting and discharged the soup onto the Mona Lisa and surrounding wall from what appeared in photos to be some sort of bottles. It remains unclear how the women snuck the soup past the museum's elaborate security system.

The Mona Lisa, perhaps the most famous painting in the world, has been the target of vandals on many previous occasions.

A Louvre employee stole the masterpiece in 1911 which bolstered the masterpiece's international profile.

The bottom of the canvas suffered damage from an acid attack in the 1950s, which prompted officials to tighten security around the painting, including adding bulletproof glass and other measures.

Then, in 2022, a man disguised as an elderly woman in a wheelchair smeared cake across the Mona Lisa's protective glass.The man, who wore a black wig and lipstick abruptly reached up and attempted to deface the painting, was promptly sent for psychiatric evaluation.

That same year, a woman hurled a ceramic cup at the painting. The cup shattered but the Mona Lisa remained unharmed.

The Mona Lisa, which measures just over 2.5 feet tall and less than 2 feet wide, is one of many famous artworks that draws millions of visitors every year to the Louvre.

The museum announced in 2023 that it would limit the number of daily visitors admitted into the building to enhance the experience for tourists.

Security concerns in Paris, including at the Louvre, are being bolstered as the opening ceremony for the 2024 Olympics is now just six months away. The event is scheduled to include a flotilla of boats that will travel down the Seine River with the 10,000 athletes who are scheduled to compete in the Games, past the Louvre, and to the foot of the Eiffel Tower.

The route was designed to highlight the history and beauty of Paris, organizers have said.

As many as half a million visitors are expected to line the four-mile route for the event, prompting security concerns.