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Iconic French painting of 'Liberty' defaced with black marker

Pascal Rossignol / Reutersfile

A woman looks at Eugene Delacroix 's painting, "Liberty Leading the People at the Louvre museum in Lens, northern France, in this Dec. 3 file picture.

PARIS -- A woman defaced Eugene Delacroix's painting "Liberty Leading the People" with a black marker as it hung in an outpost of the Louvre gallery in northern France.

Police arrested a 28-year-old woman on Thursday for writing "AE911" across the bottom of a painting so closely identified with the French Republic that its image once graced the 100-franc note and it has been reproduced on postage stamps.

"AE911Truth" is the name of a website called "Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth" whose backers say they are seeking to establish the truth of the Sept. 11, 2001 suicide airliner attacks on New York's Twin Towers.

Painted in 1830, Delacroix's "Liberty Leading the People" depicts a bare-breasted woman brandishing a tricolor flag and leading her people over the bodies of the fallen.


Xavier Dectot, director of the Louvre-Lens Museum, speaks to the media after Delacroix's "Liberty Leading the People," was damaged.

It was painted after the 1830 July Revolution as a symbol of reconciliation following the overthrow of Bourbon King Charles X and the ascent to the throne of his cousin Louis-Philippe, Duke of Orleans.

The painting was later adopted as a revolutionary emblem in the 1848 uprising which overthrew the Orleans monarchy.

It later disappeared from public view but resurfaced in the Louvre after the advent of the Third Republic in 1871 and sealed its place in the French national consciousness.

"It had really become an icon, a sort of symbol of the Republic which has remained famous throughout the ages," said Vincent Pomarede, head of the Louvre's painting department.

"We have a very passionate relationship with all our paintings and when something like this happens it's really hard to handle," he said.

The work was on loan from the main Louvre in Paris to the new Louvre-Lens gallery in northern France inaugurated last December by President Francois Hollande when it was defaced.

However, the Louvre confirmed Friday it had managed to save the painting as the black marker had not penetrated the upper layer of varnish and has been successfully removed.