Protesters Throw Pumpkin Soup on the Mona Lisa at the Louvre

By: Lauren | Published: Feb 05, 2024

Last week, two women threw pumpkin soup over the famous Mona Lisa at the Louvre in Paris, but luckily, the painting was not harmed. 

The women immediately began speaking to everyone and anyone in the Louvre at the time, explaining that they were there in protest. The entire act and speech were caught on camera, and now, like they wanted, it’s all over the news. 

The Mona Lisa Was Safe Within a Glass Case

From the photos, it may look as though Leonardo de Vinci’s most famous work was ruined by the pumpkin soup.

Screenshot from a video of protestors throwing pumpkin soup on the Mona Lisa

Source: @ABC7NY/X

But fortunately, the painting was protected within a glass case, so it was completely unharmed. The Louvre reported that the vandalism occurred at about 10:00 AM, and by 11:30 AM, they had the whole mess cleaned up, so museum-goers could once again see the world-famous painting.

These Protestors Understood the Painting Wouldn’t Be Ruined

As the glass casing is certainly not invisible, it’s highly likely that the protestors were not out to ruin the beloved piece of art.

Visitors looking at the Mona Lisa by Leonardo de Vinci in the Louvre

Source: Chesnot/Getty Images

Instead, it seems that they chose the Mona Lisa as their target, even though it was covered in glass, to make a statement and have the entire world see it.

“Food Response”

Directly after throwing the soup on the glass case, the two women ducked under the barrier and stood in front of the painting. 

Screenshot from a video of protestors throwing pumpkin soup on the Mona Lisa

Source: @riposte_alim/X

It was clear that one of the women was wearing a t-shirt that read “Riposte Alimentaire,” meaning “Food Response.” Many originally thought that the slogan on the t-shirt signified that the protesters were making a point about climate change, but that’s not quite right.

What Is Riposte Alimentaire?

Riposte Alimentaire is a French sustainable food activist group. And the women who threw the pumpkin soup did not talk about climate change in front of the Mona Lisa, but instead, about the French agricultural problem.

Logo for the activist group Riposte Alimentaire

Source: @riposte_alim/X

One of the protestors shouted, “What is more important? Art or the right to healthy and sustainable food? Your agricultural system is sick. Our farmers are dying at work.”

What Is the Current Situation for French Farmers?

In order to fully grasp the protestors’ words, it’s essential to understand what is going on in France right now and, more specifically, the current agricultural issues. 

French farmers protest in the streets against agricultural system

Source: @euronews/X

Essentially, farmers in France, who supply much of Europe with fresh produce, are fighting back against the government. From shrinking incomes to additional regulations, rising fuel costs, and horrific working conditions, they are simply fed up with the current state of the agricultural system.


Farmers Have Been Protesting with Blockades

Over the past few months, farmers from around the country have been blocking major highways with their tractors in protest.

Protesting farmers blockade the A10 highway with tractors on January 29, 2024, in Dourdan, France

Source: Christian Liewig/Corbis/Getty Images

And while they have been getting national attention for their efforts, the French government hasn’t made any significant changes to the current system. Arnaud Lepoil, a member of the FNSEA union, explained in a statement, “The prime minister has given us nibbles, and now we’d like him to work a bit harder and give us more.”


What Did They Mean by “Farmers Are Dying?”

At the Mona Lisa protest, one woman shouted, “Our farmers are dying at work.” A statement which confused many onlookers and the world as a whole when the story went viral.

A farmer's bicycle leans against a tree on a small farm in the rural Burgundy countryside in France

Source: Buddy Mays/Getty Images

But it’s now become clear that she was referring to the 36-year old farmer who died when a car pushed through the barrier of one of the protests. The farmer’s daughter had to be rushed to the hospital after the accident, and sadly, she passed away shortly thereafter.


“The Cry of the French People”

Of course, the passing of the farmer and her daughter only intensified the existing frustrations of French farmers and residents.

Migrants picking lettuce on a farm located between Avignon and Arles, France

Source: Andrew Holbrooke/Corbis/Getty Images

French resident Jordan Bardella told the press, “This is the France of the forgotten. The fight for agriculture is also the fight against rural effacement, the cry of French people who do not want to die.”


France Should Expect More Protests, Blockades, and Even Vandalism If Something Doesn’t Change

It’s extremely clear from the recent act of vandalism against the Mona Lisa, as well as the many blockades and protests in the streets, that French farmers are not backing down. 

French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal delivers his government statement of general policy before the National Assembly, Paris, France 2024

Source: Christian Liewig/Corbis/Getty Images

While no one knows what the future holds, it appears that the situation in France is likely to get worse before it gets better. And it probably won’t improve until the French government decides to change the current agricultural system.


What Does the Louvre Have to Say About All This?

While the message is different, the Louvre has seen its fair share of protestors over the years. So although it’s annoying, it’s really not a big deal for the museum. Especially since the painting was behind glass. 

Glass pyramids in the courtyard of the Louvre, 2023 in Paris, France

Source: Mika Volkmann/Getty Images

It may come as a surprise to learn that the reason why the Mona Lisa is covered in glass is that it has been attacked twice, once in the 1950s and again in 2022. It was even stolen once, over 100 years ago. 


The Mona Lisa Is Just Fine, But France Is Not

Just as the protestors were hoping, the act of throwing pumpkin soup on the glass around the Mona Lisa has made headline news all over the world.

Local and foreign tourists stand in line to view the Mona Lisa painting by Leonardo da Vinci

Source: Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images

They want everyone to know that while the world was upset about the possibility of the painting being ruined, the entire agricultural industry of the country is in turmoil. Now, they hope, people will start to care about that, too.