From Emperor Qin to Pieta: 5 infamous incidents of art vandalism
The statues date back to 200 BC, during the reign of China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang. Several of them were on display at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The sneaky vandal decided to capture a moment with one of the ancient statues by taking a selfie - along with one of its stone digits, as a keepsake.
Michael Rohana, 24, is accused of having violated the statue during a Christmas party at the venue. The crime was not discovered by museum staff until January 8. Officials with the Shaanxi Cultural Heritage Promotion Center said they were “shocked and enraged” that the Franklin Institute failed to report the incident earlier.
Rohana was eventually arrested by the FBI’s Art Crime team after they tracked him back to his home in Bear, Delaware. He was charged with “theft of a major artwork from a museum, concealment of major artwork stolen from a museum, and interstate transportation of stolen property,” the Global Times reported. He was released on $15,000 bail.
There have been several instances of high art vandalism in recent history, featuring even more unusual examples.
On July 26, 2013, green paint was splashed across the Lincoln Memorial at the National Mall in Washington, DC. Because the vandals struck in the middle of the night, no suspects were brought to justice and the felonious “green thumb” street artists were never found.
Piero Cannata, an unemployed 47-year-old with a history of mental illness, walked into the Galleria dell'Accademia in Florence on September 14, 1991 to have a whack at Michelangelo's masterpiece 'David.' The perpetrator began pummelling the statue with a mallet that he snuck in beneath his jacket, breaking off a piece of David’s toe. A local passersby managed to subdue Cannata before he could attack the statue’s “centerpiece.” When asked why he attacked the statue, Cannato explained that "Nani," a 16th-century Venetian painter's model, had instructed him to do so.
A similar incident involved another unemployed man with psychological issues, Laslo Toth, attacking another Michelangelo masterpiece. On May 21, 1972, Toth strolled into St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City to deliver 12 vicious blows to the 'Pietà' with a smuggled hammer. When police questioned him about the assault, he desperately tried to convince the authorities that he was both Michelangelo and Jesus Christ at the same time.
One of the most bizarre acts of vandalism occurred in January 2012, when Carmen Tisch from Denver, Colorado gave a touch-up to a $40 million expressionist painting by punching, scratching, and then wiping her bare behind on it. Afterwards, she collapsed in an emotional meltdown and urinated on herself in the gallery. She was later taken away by police.
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