The Top 12 Most Horribly Defaced Art Pieces of All Time Artwork

The Top 12 Most Horribly Defaced Art Pieces of All Time

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Everyone's a critic. But whether one loves or abhors a piece of art, most people still respect the work enough to leave it intact. Not in these cases. This list of the top 10 most unbelievable defilements contains the funniest, most shocking, and just plain weirdest defacements ever to occur in the art world.

Over the years, art vandals have used hammers, cleavers, paint, acid, fists, and even hot tea to maim famous paintings and sculptures. One Denver woman actually used her bare rear end.

In most cases, the art is restorable. In fact, some say that vandalism adds to a piece's history and winds up a part of the work itself.

Check out more lists like the greatest Baroque artists in history, famous Impressionist artists and the best Art Noveau artists

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  1. 1

    Newly Canonized Junipero Serra Dubbed "Saint of Genocide"

    Just days after Pope Benedict canonized Father Junipero Serra in September 2015, vandals attacked the site of his grave at the Carmel Mission in California. They wrote "Saint of Genocide" on a headstone and knocked over several statues. The graffiti is most likely a reference to Serra's controversial legacy. The 18th century cleric is credited with bringing Catholicism to the west coast, but many Native Americans argue that he used cruel and inhumane punishment on native peoples who rejected the religion or tried to leave his missions.

    According to Carmel police Sgt. Luke Powell, the incident was being investigated as a hate crime because the vandals targeted "specifically the headstones of people of European descent, and not Native American descent." No one immediately came forward to claim responsibility, but police said they were reviewing security tapes to find the perpetrators.

    Source: LA Times
  2. 2

    Lincoln Memorial Vandalized

    In the early hours of the morning on July 26, 2013, vandals splashed the Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. with green paint. Police immediately closed the monument for clean up and began investigating who may have been responsible. As of writing, there are no suspects to this case.
  3. 3

    Denver Woman Punches, Wipes Rear End on Painting, then Pees Herself

    In January 2012, a drunk Denver woman named Carmen Tisch decided to add her own touch to a $30-to-$40 million museum painting by scratching it, punching it, and wiping her bare bottom on it. Once the defilement was complete, Tisch crumbled to the floor and peed herself. The painting, by artist Clyfford Still, was spared any contact with the urine but still sustained about $10,000 worth of damage.

    The police were called immediately following the offense, and Tisch was soon arrested. She was ultimately charged with criminal mischief. Tisch's mother describes her as a long-time alcoholic; she has previously been convicted for drunk driving.

    Though, to be fair, it was an expressionistic painting, and to Tisch it could have looked like a toilet.
  4. 4

    The Nose Thief of Villa Borghese

    Officials at Pincio Gardens in the Villa Borghese were confounded when the noses of famous statues started disappearing in 1985. The vandalism occurred over a span of months, and more than 80 noses were severed from sculptures of both famous and infamous Italians like Christopher Columbus and Machiavelli. Defaced pieces included works by Bernini, among other artists.

    Eventually, police caught on to the culprit, a biology professor who was wandering around with a plastic bag filled with the stolen marble schnozes. The man appeared to be mentally unbalanced, claiming that the KGB was after him and then handing police a note reading, "I am a UFO," which seems like the most logical explanation for anything ever.
  5. 5

    Michaelangelo's "David" Survives Hammer Beating

    In 1991, a 47-year-old, unemployed, Italian man named Piero Cannata entered the Galleria dell'Accademia museum in Florence with a hammer hidden in his jacket. When he approached Michaelangelo's "David" sculpture, which some hail as the most famous sculpture in the world, he took out his weapon and attacked the piece, breaking one of the toes of the left foot.

    Museum-goers attempted to stop the attacker from causing any further damage until security arrived on the scene. Cannata, who police described as "deranged," claimed that he committed the act because a 16th-century Venetian painter's model, "Nani," had instructed him to. Ultimately, all fragments of the toe were recovered, allowing the sculpture to be repaired. At least the David's most "special" part was safe, since Cannata was too short to reach it.

    In 2005, Cannata was caught spray-painting a giant X on a plaque set into the ground of the Piazza della Signoria. When asked why he did it, he said it was because the sentence on the plaque "made no sense."
  6. 6

    "Rokeby Venus" Defiled with a Meat Cleaver

    The "Rokeby Venus" by Diego Velázquez goes by many names: "La Venus del espejo," "Venus and Cupid," "The Toilet of Venus," (really?) and "Venus at her Mirror." Most likely, suffragette Mary Richardson didn't care much what the painting was called when she attacked the piece with her meat cleaver at London’s National Gallery in 1914. She managed to inflict seven large slash wounds on the painting in her attempt to "destroy the picture of the most beautiful woman in mythological history."

    Pankhurst committed the offense to protest the arrest of friend and fellow suffragette, Emmeline Pankhurst. She thought of the defacement as payback for the government destroying "the most beautiful character in modern history." Richardson served six months in jail for her actions.
  7. 7

    Banksy Vs. King Robbo

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    Now-mainstream street artist Banksy apparently has a running feud with King Robbo, who is credited with founding the London graffiti scene. In October, 2011, one of Banksy's pieces in Bristol was painted over in solid black, along with the tagging "Team Robbo." The piece, which featured a child standing behind a police officer with a blown-up paper bag, ready to burst it, had been in place for four years above a store in Bristol. It is unclear whether or not it will be restored.

    It is not quite clear who defaced Banksy's work. King Robbo is said to be retired, and the act could have been committed by him or by one of his followers. Robbo and Banksy (or perhaps their fans – hard to know given the elusive nature of the genre) have been defacing each other's work for the past two years.
  8. 8

    Woman Attacks Gauguin's Two Tahitian Women


    On April Fool's Day of 2011, a 53-year-old Tea Party member Susan Burns paid a visit to the National Gallery of Art in Washington and strolled in to the "Gauguin" display. When she came upon the painting "Two Tahitian Women," she broke into a fury and attacked the piece, trying to wrench it off of the wall and punching it.

    The painting, covered by Plexi-glass, was not harmed. However, police arrested Burns for her actions. She later stated that she thought Gaugin was evil and denounced the painting, which portrays two topless women, for having homosexual overtones. "I was trying to remove it. I think it should be burned," she claimed. Tea partiers are crazy.
  9. 9

    Mona Lisa Attacked with Acid, A Rock, Red Paint and Hot Tea

    Leonardo Da Vinci's most famous painting, the "Mona Lisa," has seen more than its fair share of defacement. In 1956, the lower half of the masterpiece was seriously damaged when someone threw acid at the portrait. Later that same year, a Bolivian man named Ugo Ungaza threw a rock at the work, chipping the paint on the woman's left elbow.

    The "Mona Lisa" was restored, and was eventually placed behind bulletproof glass. However, that did not stop people from attempting to inflict more damage. In 1974, a handicapped woman who was angered by the disabled-persons' policy of the Tokyo National Museum, where the painting was on display, and attacked it with red spray paint. In August of 2009, a Russian woman who was upset about being denied French citizenship hurled a cup of hot tea at the work.

    It's just another case of how hard it is being the most beautiful woman in the world. If only people threw rocks and coffee on other so called "beauties" like Kim Kardashian...
  10. 10

    Michaelangelo’s "Pieta" Attacked with Hammer

    One day in 1972, a geologist named Laszlo Toth strolled into St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City wielding a hammer. He headed to Michaelangelo's famous marble sculpture of Jesus and Mary, "Pieta," and proceeded to whack at the piece with all of his might. He succeeded in chopping off Mary's forearm, removing part of her nose, and damaging one of her eyelids.

    It is unclear why Laszio committed such violence against art, though it is assumed that he is not a fan of the Bible or marble. "Pieta" was restored, and bulletproof glass was placed around the statue to avoid any further damage.
  11. 11

    The Scream Stolen, Twice

    The first theft of "The Scream" occurred at the National Gallery on opening day of the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer. In a scene straight out of Thomas Crown Affair or Ocean's 11, four men broke in, took the painting, and left behind a note that said "Thanks for the poor security." They requested a $1 million ransom; the gallery refused, and eventually all were caught and the painting recovered. The art-nappers were charged with theft, but won an appeal because of illegal acts by British sting agents.

    The second theft, of a different version of the painting, occurred at the Munch Museum in Oslo in 2004. Masked gunmen absconded with "The Scream" as well as Munch's "Madonna" painting. Both were found with reparable damage two years later.
  12. 12

    Denmark's Little Mermaid Beheaded, Blown Away, and Painted On

    The famous "Little Mermaid" statue in Denmark, a Copenhagen landmark, has seen her fair share of vandalism over the years. The latest incident occurred in May of 2007, when the piece was doused in red paint that covered the mermaid's face, lap and arm. The unknown vandals left behind a wooden picture frame with the word "AV," which means "ouch" in Danish. This was just months after the statue was painted over in pink in another defacing incident.

    In 2003, the "Little Mermaid" had been blown clear off of her rocky perch with explosives. She has also been decapitated multiple times.
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