Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa is once again the victim of an attack. On Sunday at the Louvre in Paris, two activists from the group Riposte Alimentaire—or, “Food Response”—unleashed soup thermoses onto the glass-protected 1503 painting and the wall behind it.
Bringing a shock to museum-goers, the two activists—identified as 24-year-old Sasha and 63-year-old Marie-Juliette—then crossed underneath the wooden railing and called for, in their words, “the integration of food into the general social security system,” citing many French citizens financial need to skip meals. “In France, one in three people skip meals due to lack of means,” Riposte Alimentaire stated in French after the protest. “At the same time, 20 percent of the food produced is thrown away. Our model stigmatizes the most precarious and does not respect our fundamental right to food.”
This isn’t the first time the Mona Lisa has been the target for protestors. Safe behind a protective glass shield, her mysterious smile shone through the splatter of orange-hued soup—later identified as pumpkin—proving once again that protest you might, Mona Lisa, is always un-phased in the end. Maybe there’s a metaphor there.
And while we can sit here all day and debate the ethics of such a protest, there’s only one thing on my mind as Food + Drink Editor of New Jersey Digest: did the protestors stop to think whether Mona Lisa herself would even like the soup which they chose to use? I mean, the least they could do is some research into the soups of Mona Lisa’s days during the Italian Renaissance. In my eyes, if you’re going to desecrate one of the most famous pieces of art of all time, at least have some class. After all, it’s not Lisa herself they are protesting against.
When Did Mona Lisa Live?
Lisa del Giocondo, better known by her artistically-awarded name Mona Lisa, was a noblewoman and member of the Gherardini family of Florence who lived from 1479 to 1542. Very little outside of this is known about her life.
However, it was in 1503 when Lisa would be etched into history through art. Leonardo da Vinci portrays Lisa del Giocondo as a faithful and fashionable woman with his 16th-century masterpiece, Mona Lisa.
Soups Of the Italian Renaissance
Lisa lived a comfortable life in Tuscany. Protestors got one thing right with their weapon of choice: soups were very popular in 15th Century Tuscany, according to an essay from Galileo titled Food In Renaissance Tuscany. However, it is doubtful they did their due diligence when preparing the meal. In fact, pumpkins didn’t even touch down in Europe until at least the 16th century when they were brought back from the Americas.
Some of the popular soups in Italy at the time included hearty vegetable and bean soups like ribollita—a Tuscan soup that utilizes bread for body and often leftovers or ingredients of convenience to stretch means. Ribollita was invented out of necessity in a peasantry-laden Tuscany. Ironically, the very thing Riposte Alimentaire was protesting—food insecurity—was one of the driving factors in the conceptualization of dishes like ribollita.
Beyond ribollita, a soup named cinestrata was popular in Tuscany. The unorthodox offering includes a broth of marsala wine, cinnamon, nutmeg and beaten egg—a combination producing a sweet broth, thickened by egg.
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The Mona Lisa Protest
This is now the sixth time that Mona Lisa has been vandalized or stolen. However, each and every time, the painting has emerged without a scratch—Lisa del Giocondo’s eerie smile prevailing. Is this the last time protesters will target the painting? Almost certainly not. And maybe next time that protestors flock to the Louvre, they’ll choose a more appropriate soup—one Lisa might actually enjoy—to splatter across her eternal smirk.
Speaking of the smirk: six protests in and the smile hasn’t changed. Maybe she’s mocking them.
About the Author/s
Peter Candia is the Food + Drink Editor at New Jersey Digest. A graduate of The Culinary Institute of America, Peter found a passion for writing midway through school and never looked back. He is a former line cook, server and bartender at top-rated restaurants in the tri-state area. In addition to food, Peter enjoys politics, music, sports and anything New Jersey.