Rothko’s Black on Maroon is not the first artwork to be defaced. Here are ten other examples of art vandalism.
The defacing of Rothko’s Black on Maroon (1968) by an unknown vandal in the name of ‘Yellowism’ is not the first time that art has been vandalised in a high profile public gallery. The incident follows in a long tradition of people harming artworks in protest. But works of art have also been vandalised by accident, by over-zealous fans and even for no apparent reason at all. Here are 10 other examples of defaced artworks.
• Mona Lisa, by Leonardo da Vinci, painted between 1503 and 1506
Da Vinci’s masterpiece, one of the world’s most famous paintings, has been the subject of many attacks by vandals. One of the worst was in 1956, when the lower part of the painting was doused in acid. It wasn’t a good year for the Mona Lisa, a few months later a Bolivian man, Ugo Ungaza Villegas threw a rock at the painting, chipping some of its pigment. It now sits under bullet proof glass.
The Bristol-based street artist is famed for choosing the walls he paints on indiscriminately. In 2011 unsuspecting wall-owner Saeed Ahmed whitewashed over this painting, one of Banksy’s early artworks, of a gorilla wearing a pink eye mask. At the time people called it an act of vandalism, but Ahmed hadn’t realised its significance, having not ever heard of Banksy. The artwork has now been partially restored.
• The Night Watch, by Rembrandt, painted in 1642
The Dutch painter’s depiction of Captain Frans Banning Cocq and his company about to go to war is another that has been vandalised many times. While on show at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam in 1975, William de Rijk an unemployed schoolteacher, cut through it several times with a knife. The painting managed to be restored, although traces of the cuts remain.
• Guernica, by Pablo Picasso, painted in 1937
In 1974 Tony Shafrazi wrote ‘Kill Lies All’ in red paint on Picasso’s depiction of the bombing of a village in Spain in 1937 by German and Italian warplanes. The painting was hanging in New York’s Museum of Modern Art, and it is thought that Shafrazi, an art dealer, was protesting the announcement of the release on bail of US Lieutenant William Calley – a man who had taken part in the My Lai massacre in Vietnam. The painting was not damaged as it had been heavily varnished and the red paint easily came off.
• The Rokeby Venus, by Diego Velazquez, painted between 1647 and 1651
At the height of the London Suffragette movement in 1914, Mary Richardson walked into the National Gallery and swung a meat cleaver several times through the image of the goddess Venus, a scene recently re-created in the adaptation of Ford Madox Ford’s novel Parade’s End. Richardson was given the maximum sentence allowed for the destruction of an artwork, six months. She said her actions were provoked by the arrest of Emmeline Pankhurst a day earlier.
• The Portland Vase, creator unknown, dated between AD 5 and AD 25
This Roman glass vase, depicting scenes of love and marriage, was shattered at the British Museum by a drunken William Lloyd in 1845. He threw a sculpture on top of the case the vase was in, thereby smashing both. The work was pieced together and Lloyd was forced to pay a fine of three pounds or face two months in prison.
• Phaedrus, by Cy Twombly, painted in 1977
The white triptych by American painter Cy Twombly was vandalised in 2007 while being exhibited in Avignon in France, by Rindy Sam, who claimed she was so overcome by the painting, she had to kiss it. Initial attempts to remove the lipstick were unsuccessful. Sam was convicted and ordered to pay 1,500 euros damage.
• Myra, by Marcus Harvey, painted in 1995
The 1997 exhibition Sensation, at the Royal Academy in London hosted this image, created by YBA Harvey of the notorious serial killer Myra Hindley. The image is made up of copies of a child’s handprint which combine to create a mosaic of the famous photograph taken of Hindley after her arrest in 1965. Several Royal Academicians resigned at its inclusion and gallery windows were broken in protest. The painting itself was vandalised twice during the exhibition, the first time blue and red ink was thrown over it, the second, eggs.
• La Pietà, by Michelangelo, created between 1498 and 1499
Housed in St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican city, Michelangelo’s sculpture was originally created as a funeral monument for the French Cardinal Jean de Billheres. It depicts Jesus, lying on his mother Mary’s lap after he has been crucified. In 1972 Laszlo Toth, a 33-year-old mentally unbalanced geologist, attacked the statue with a hammer, whilst shouting ‘I am Jesus’. Bits were chipped off the sculpture, most of which were collected and used to repair the artwork, which now sits behind bullet proof glass.
• The Little Mermaid, by Edvard Eriksen, created in 1913
Copenhagen’s iconic statue of Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tale character of the same name, has been vandalised many times since it first appeared on the city’s pier – Langelinie. Jorgen Nash was one of a group of artists from the Situationist movement responsible for sawing off the mermaid’s head in 1964. The head was never found and a replacement head was created. Vandals have also sawn off her arm, made a cut in her neck and holes have been blown into her wrist and knee.
By Daisy Bowie-Sell-THE TELEGRAPH