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It wasn’t like they hated Monet

Drunkards Damage Priceless Monet

Five drunken people broke into the Musee d’Orsay early last Sunday morning, October 7. How the police knew they were drunk from the surveillance video, I don’t know exactly. Authorities don’t think the thieves–more properly “vandals”–were there to steal paintings. It wasn’t like they hated Claude Monet, the Impressionist painter best known for his studies of water lilies at his gardens in Giverny. But why molest one of his paintings? Whether this was an art heist gone awry, a statement against Monet, or just plain alchohol-fueled stupidity, the wayward five punched a 4-inch hole in the 1874 painting “Le Pont d’Argenteuil” (the bridge of Argenteuil, pictured above) before fleeing. A detail of the tear is shown below.



Christina Albanel, the French Minister of Culture, said the picture will be restored, adding, “We know there were four or five people, likely four boys and a girl, who entered around midnight to 1 a.m., broke a door that was, perhaps, fragile. We will not tolerate this.”

The Musee d’Orsay is a large, airy museum along the Seine’s Left Bank. You can see it’s lanky body with the bold coppery green clocks–with the correct time!–as you float along the Seine in a Batobus water taxi on a sunny day. On a foggy, polluted day you can also see it.


Restored from the Gare d’Orsay, a train station until after train travel declined in the 1970s, the d’Orsay museum has a lot of famous art (see above), including at least 60 works by Monet. The museum has a particularly spectacular atrium with light from the glass roof bathing many wonderful sculptures. 

The vandalism occurred during Paris’s annual all-night October festival Nuit Blanche.  According to Wikipedia, Nuit Blanche (“White Night” or “All Nighter”) is a festival that goes from sundown to sunrise on the first Saturday/Sunday in October. There are also Nuit Blanche festivals in Chicago, Toronto, and Montreal. Museums, art galleries, and other cultural institutions typically offer free admission and the city core is turned into one huge art gallery with installations and performances.

Here in Paris, people were also most likely out celebrating France’s victory over New Zealand’s All Blacks on Saturday in the Rugby World Cup. France’s Bleus now advance to the cup’s semifinals. This perhaps unfortunate convergence of mirth, celebration, and drink may have contributed to Sunday’s d’Orsay disturbance. With great apologies to Monsieur Monet, I slept through it all.

Post script: On another trip through the d’Orsay several days later, there was no trace, posted explanation, or blank space where the damaged painting had been. (There also did not seem to be any heightened security that I could notice.) It was as if museum curators had brought up another Monet from the basement cold room and had installed it so quickly no one was the wiser.

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