Shortly before closing time yesterday at the Louvre’s new outpost in northern France, Louvre-Lens, a 28-year-old woman used a permanent marker to write graffiti on Eugène Delacroix’s iconic painting “La Liberté Guidant le Peuple” ("Liberty Guiding the People") — a piece that had been relocated to the museum from its Paris parent institution in November. Louvre-Lens, which is pressing charges, says that upon initial inspection the damage should be easily repairable.
According to Le Monde, the woman wrote on the bottom part of the painting, and France 2 describes the resulting damage as covering about five square inches of the canvas. The graffiti is said to express demands “whose object is not yet known.” The perpetrator was apprehended by a museum guard and another visitor and turned over to the police.
In a statement, the Louvre-Lens said that a restoration expert from the Louvre was due to arrive from Paris yesterday evening to examine the damage. Depending on her findings, the painting will either be cleaned in Lens or returned to Paris for repair. The statement added that “this sad occurrence does not call into question our desire to share the Louvre’s masterpieces with everyone in Lens, where the museum has already welcomed 205,000 visitors since its opening.”
The text that the vandal wrote on the Delacroix canvas — which, according to a report in Libération, has already been removed without damage to the painting — read “AE911,” Agence France-Press reports, a mysterious inscription that some are speculating may refer to the abbreviation for the group Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth.