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14 Cases Of People Vandalizing Famous Paintings

Updated on 2 September, 2019 at 4:49 pm By

1. ‘Ivan Grozny and his son Ivan’ by Ilya Repin

On January 16, 1913, Abram Balashev, a 29-year-old iconographer attacked the painting in a gallery in Moscow. He slashed the painting three times with a knife and managed to cut the faces of both the Ivans. It took two Russian experts less than a week to restore the painting because photographs of it were widely available. Balashev was found to be mentally incompetent and was sent to a psychiatric hospital.

2. ‘The Virgin and Child with St Anne and St John the Baptist’ by Leonardo da Vinci


In July 1987, Robert Cambridge carried a concealed sawn-off shotgun into the National Gallery in London and shot at the painting, which was behind protective glass. The glass shattered and sent splinters all over the painting, creating massive damage. Cambridge said he was protesting against the political, social and economic conditions in Britain and was placed in a mental institution. It took more than a year to restore the painting.

3. ‘Rokeby Venus’ by Diego Velázquez

On March 10, 1914, suffragette Mary Richardson attacked this painting in the National Gallery at London with a meat cleaver. Richardson’s attack was a protest against the arrest of suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst. Richardson slashed the painting seven times but the work has since been mended. In 1952 Richardson said she did not like the way men stared at the painting all day long.

4. ‘Danaë’ by Rembrandt

On June 15, 1985, this painting was attacked by a man visiting the Hermitage Museum in Russia. The man first threw sulfuric acid on the painting and then slashed it twice with a knife. He was judged to be mentally incompetent. The entire central part of the painting was destroyed; it took around 12 years to restore the painting. It is now always behind armored glass.

5. ‘Guernica’ by Pablo Picasso

On February 28, 1974, in protest of William Calley’s petition for habeas corpus after his sentencing for killing 109 Vietnamese civilians during the My Lai massacre, Tony Shafrazi vandalized the painting with red spray paint. He wrote ‘KILL LIES ALL’. The paint was rather easy to remove from the varnished surface of the painting.

6. ‘Mona Lisa’ by Leonardo da Vinci

This painting has a history of vandalism, which is why it is one of the most well-protect works of art. In 1956, it was doused with acid which damaged its lower part. In the same year, a rock was hurled at it which led to loss of pigment that was later painted over. In 1974, at the Tokyo National Museum, a handicapped woman sprayed red paint at it. In 2009, a woman threw a teacup at it but it shattered against the glass protecting it.

7. ‘Night Watch’ by Rembrandt

The painting has been vandalized on many occasions. In 1911, an unemployed navy cook tried to cut it but the varnish was too thick for him.IN 1975, an unemployed school teacher cut several zigzag lines on the painting with a knife before guards could stop him. He was suffering from a mental disorder and ended up committing suicide at a hospital. It took 6 months to fix the painting, but the traces of the cuts still remain. In 1990, a man threw acid on it but the guard quickly diluted it with water. The painting was restored once more.

8. ‘La Berceuse’ by Vincent Van Gogh

On April 6, 1978, a 31-year-old Dutch artist made three long cuts in the middle of the painting that were approximately 30-40cm long. The painting had been hanging in the Stedelijik Museum in Amsterdam and the artist was upset about the non-payment of his welfare by the Amsterdam authorities.

9. ‘Who’s Afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue III’ and ‘Cathedra’ by Barnett Newman

In March 1986, again at the Stedelijik Museum in Amsterdam, the first painting was attacked by 31-year-old Gerard Jan van Bladeren with a knife. It cost nearly $1 million to restore and is said to have been ruined by the restoration job. Bladeren served 5 months in jail. Then in 1997, Bladeren slashed ‘Cathedra’ (valued at about $12 million) seven times with a knife. He then waited for police to be called without attempting to flee. Bladeren explained his attacks by saying he hates abstract art.

10. ‘Phaedrus’ by Cy Twombly

On July 19, 2007, artist Rindy Sam kissed the all-white painting while wearing red lipstick, which left a mark. Attempts were made to remove the mark on the painting, estimated at $2,830,000, but were unsuccessful. Sam said that the kiss was a loving gesture, an artistic act provoked by the power of art. She was convicted and ordered to pay the owner, the gallery  and the artist.

11. ‘Pianist and Checker Players’, ‘Zorah Standing’, and ‘The Japanese Woman’ by Henri Matisse

In 1988, these Matisse paintings were hanging in the Capitoline Museum in Rome when a few school groups came on tour there. After they had left pencil marks and puncture holes were discovered on the paintings. Fortunately, all three were able to be restored, though authorities never figured out who exactly had damaged the artworks.

12. ‘Argenteuil Basin with a Single Sailboat’ by Claude Monet

On June 29, 2012, 49-year-old Andre Shannon punched a hole in the painting while viewing it at Ireland’s National Gallery. Shannon tried to say that he lost his balance and fell but security footage at the premises showed that he stood in front of the painting, paused and then put his fist through it. He was sentenced to 6 years in jail. After 18 months of restoration, the painting went back on display.

Argenteuil Basin with a Single Sailboat

13. Assorted painting by various artists

In July 2013, Olga Doragu, mother of Radu Dorago, told police that after her son was arrested in January, she burnt a suitcase containing various paintings in order to destroy the evidence. The paintings, valued at $150 million, were taken from Kunsthal Museum in Rotterdam in October 16, 2012, They include works of Picasso, Monet, Matisse, Gauguin, Meyer de Haan and Lucian Freud.

Woman with Eyes Closed by Lucian Freud


14. Prehistoric rock art paintings


In absolutely shameless displays of idiocy, people have been known to spray paint over centuries-old rock art paintings that have somehow managed to survive till the present times. In 2009 cave paintings in Libya were destroyed by the former Tunisian guide. Saharan rock art has been watered down, urinated upon, had graffiti added and parts erased. Some art has been chain-sawed off. In one of the worst cases, UN peacekeepers vandalized the prehistoric art including in Lajuad (Devil Mountain), a place of both mystery and history.


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