Why do people want to destroy the Mona Lisa?
...and other works of art far more precious
In May 2022, a man dressed as an old woman in a wheelchair rolled into the Louvre with a desperate plan in mind: to smear cake on the face of the Mona Lisa. What he didn’t count on is that Da Vinci’s masterpiece is behind bulletproof glass, and so he had to settle for smearing his cake on the glass before being hauled off. It turns out that this is not the first time anyone has taken a shot at the painting; previous attempts included a rock, red paint, and a teacup.
Although I don’t know that I will ever go see the Mona Lisa for myself, I’m glad the painting is still safe. Most people I imagine would feel that the destruction of such an important piece of art would be an inestimable loss.
And yet, which is the greater work of art, a painting of a woman, or the woman herself? Shouldn’t it be obvious to us that a picture of a person, forever frozen in the same expression (however charming the smile), is of far less value than a living masterpiece able to walk and talk, a work of art that creates, dreams and loves?
What explanation can we give then, for destroying such a marvel knitted together in the womb by God? How does the invaluable come to have no value at all? We place the dead woman behind bulletproof glass lest she get frosting on her nose, but the living are acceptable casualties if they should get in the way of other priorities.
Whatever excuses we may give for abortion, none of them looks the barbaric destruction in the eye. Humanity is noble and good when it loves and protects what is beautiful and precious and utterly unique. This is why we’re glad the Mona Lisa is safe, and why we were cheering for the priests hiding ancient manuscripts from ISIS, and why we were horrified to see Notre Dame on fire. If then we feel nothing at the loss of something so irreplaceable as a child in the image of God, we must admit our very humanity is in doubt.
If we’re mystified at what drives a man to attack the Mona Lisa and find ourselves worried about the fate of a painting, what excuse can we give for shrugging when the target becomes the flesh and bone artwork that is our children?
https://insights.masterworks.io/art/irl/art-news/let-her-eat-cake-mona-lisa/ Consulted 20 Sep 2022