Environmental Activist “Cakes” the Mona Lisa

Environmental Activist “Cakes” the Mona Lisa

Noah Haire, Reporter

On Sunday, May 29th, a 36 year-old climate activist sprung a premeditated attack on the da Vinci painting, “Mona Lisa”. The culprit in question arrived at the Louvre Museum in Paris disguised as an old woman in a wheelchair. After approaching the famous painting, the man stood up from his wheelchair and smeared a piece of cake across the painting’s protective sheet of thin glass.

According to The Associated Press, the man shouted “Think of the Earth! There are people who are destroying the Earth! Think about it. Artists tell you: Think of the Earth. That’s why I did this,” as he was being escorted out of the museum by security. Despite this merciless act, DaVinci’s painting remained unscathed. The painting has been kept behind glass since 1950, when a tourist threw acid at the painting. More recently, a visitor, angered by his inability to be granted French citizenship, threw a ceramic cup at the painting. The cup shattered, but no damage was done to the painting or the glass surrounding it.

All of these acts consistently show a desire for attention and destruction. The Mona Lisa hasn’t always been the most famous Renaissance painting, and only created a name for itself following the removal from its original installation location in the Louvre in 1911. The theft remained unsolved for 28 months before one of the thieves attempted to sell the painting to an art dealer in Florence, Italy. The dealer recognized the authenticity of the painting and immediately sent authorities after the thief. It is not as if the painting did anything wrong, but it is the face of the art industry. There’s no better way to knock out a business than to throw a cake at the CEO.

As an art enthusiast myself, I don’t understand the point of defacing historical objects for the impact they had on the world now or back then. The Mona Lisa was created using oil paints back in 1503. At the time, oil paints were a popular medium for realism painting including a lot of texture and depth. Unfortunately, it has been speculated that oil paints are toxic. The truth is, unless directly ingested, most oil paints have no adverse effects on the painter or the environment. Oil paints are made up of natural oils and pigments, and the majority of pigments are completely safe and non-toxic. Considering the neutral color palette of the painting, I can’t imagine any of the pigments were unnatural. So why would there be a need to destroy the painting?

With no specific motive in mind, I imagine this is exactly what the culprit was wishing for: coverage. Even though the painting proves no threat to the earth or the inhabitants thereof, his remarks to “think of the earth” do impact the visitors at the museum, and anyone who hears about this attempted tragedy. In large quantities, the production of art supplies could have some adverse effects on the world, mainly through the emissions that the production site could produce. However, in the 15th century, paint brushes were preferably made of animal hair, inserted into quills. The animals used to make a paintbrush could range from horses to pigs, to squirrel fur and porcupine quills. Today, the majority of high end paint brushes are still using real animal fur to add additional quality to their product. A very popular brand under the name of Kolinsky Sable, uses Siberian weasel fur, which is more than three times more expensive than gold by weight. These weasels are hunted sustainably every spring under CITES guidelines across Siberia and Manchuria, according to Charlie Floyd at Buisnessinsider.com. Assuming the company actually harvests fur sustainably, I can’t pinpoint any negative long term effects in the near future. Certainly, knowledge of animal sustainability in the 15th century was fairly limited, and the industrial revolution was not even a concept. For the surplus of inconsiderate hunting, there were no production emissions being put into our atmosphere. Sounds like a win-lose situation to me.

Nowadays, it is required that live product be hunted in seasonal and sustainable ways, and it is up to the manufacturer to follow these guidelines. The 15th century however, did not recognize the possible outcomes of freely hunting furs and other animal products. It is not up to us to blame the things done by historical figures, and it is more our responsibility to attempt reversing these outcomes. The remark “think of the earth” is all we really can do in the context of history. We cannot change what was done, we can only recognize and learn from past mistakes. The oil paints and paintbrushes weren’t the issue; it was the leniency of the past and how our current generation must adapt to our deteriorating environment and society. The movement and transportation of fine art is responsible for the art industry’s highest emission rate, and the Mona Lisa would be transferred in nothing other than a private cargo plane. Traveling to see the pieces also contributes to CO2 emissions. Be thoughtful in your endeavors and take time to think of the cleanest ways to act upon your planet. Think of the earth.