We have previously discussed the destructive narcissism of tourists who write their names on historic locations or art. This includes the Chinese tourist who wrote on an ancient Egyptian temple and the Russian who carved his name into the Colosseum. An unidentified 55-year-old man from Missouri snapped the finger off a 14th or 15th century marble masterpiece when he decided to measure it by grabbing the hand. Then there was the destruction of an ornate historic arch for selfie in Portugal. The latest victim is a 200-year-old sculpture in Italy after an Austrian tourist decided to sit on the artwork for a better picture and broke off two of its toes. Paolina (left) might not object to the intrusion. She was heavily criticized for her attraction to (and of) men, a tendency that led to a reputation for “Bacchanalian promiscuity.” It appears her irresistible attraction continues, even to the ruin of Austrian men hundreds of years later.
Created in the early 1800s, it depicts Paolina Bonaparte, the sister of Napoleon, as the
We have previously discussed what the proper punishment should be for such acts. In this case, I was particularly struck by the fact that the plaster version of Antonio Canova’s statue of Paolina Bonaparte was inside the Museum Gipsoteca Antonio Canova in Possagno, Italy. Some people might think that an outdoor statue is sturdier or expected to have such contact. This was inside a museum.
The authorities say that the surveillance tape showed the the the tourist quickly moved away from the damaged work and failed to alert staff during the July 31 incident. The man later said that he read about the damage after returning home and turned himself in: “During the visit, I sat on the statue, without realizing the damage I evidently caused. I ask you for information on the steps that are necessary on my part in this very unpleasant situation for me and for which, firstly, I apologize in every way.”
Admitting guilt is certainly commendable but it leaves us again with the question of the appropriate penalty. Such this be a criminal violation? It seems to be that the answer is clearly yes. This is damage to an over 200 year art piece through an intentional violation of museum rules (and commonsense). However, should such crimes be the subject of just fines or require a short stint in jail?
In this case, the willingness of the man to turn himself into authorities is a significant mitigating factor to me. There is obviously the cost of the repair and other collateral costs that must be paid. I am not inclined to jail people for sheer stupidity. These people do not intend to destroy the art though I would distinguish the person who carved initials into the Colosseum.
The question I would raise is whether countries should start to ban individuals who engage in such acts from entry into the country. That would create a significant deterrent in my view. Deterrence is often a relationship between the rate of detection and the size of the penalty. The rate of detection of such crimes are increasing with the use of security cameras. Banishment is an old but effective punishment in such cases in my view.
What do you think the penalty should be?