“Our farming system is sick,” they said. “Our farmers are dying at work.”
Videos and photos of the incident that went viral Sunday morning showed the protective barrier of the Mona Lisa covered in streaks of orange soup. The Louvre did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
The Louvre’s security entered the “Salle des Etats” room where the painting is displayed and video footage showed them blocking the women with black screens before removing them from the area. Paris police made two arrests following the incident, according to the Associated Press.
The two activists appeared to be wearing white T-shirts with black lettering spelling out the phrase, “Riposte Alimentaire,” the name of a food security protest group that claimed responsibility for the incident. “Riposte Alimentaire” roughly translates to “food response,” in English.
In a translated statement posted to X (formerly Twitter), Riposte Alimentaire said the women’s actions were nonviolent and that they were hoping to raise awareness about the issues farmers face and concerns about the world’s food security. The group also called for French citizens to receive a food card worth 150€ (about $163) per month.
“Farmers are squeezed by the pressures of mass distribution, going so far as to make them sell at a loss,” the group said, according to a translation. “Our agricultural and food system also has extremely worrying environmental consequences.”
Riposte Alimentaire is a part of the A22 movement, a collection of protester groups like Just Stop Oil, which made headlines in 2022 after pouring soup on Vincent van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” painting at London’s National Gallery museum, which led to arrests and minor damage to the painting’s frame.
The Mona Lisa incident comes as French farmers are protesting for better protection against imports and increased pay for what they produce, according to the Associated Press.
Rachida Dati, France’s minister for culture, said in an X post Sunday that no cause can justify an attack on the Mona Lisa.
“The Mona Lisa, like our heritage, belongs to future generations,” Dati wrote.
The Mona Lisa has been targeted by protesters in the past. In 2022, a man who dressed as an elderly woman smeared the painting with a cakelike cream. More than a decade earlier in 2009, a woman threw a ceramic cup at the painting. In 1956, the painting was hit by a rock and acid, which led the museum to put it behind glass.