Laszlo Toth (Tóth László in Hungarian) (born July 1, 1938 - September 11, 2012), was a Hungarian-born Australian geologist. He achieved worldwide notoriety when he vandalised Michelangelo's Pietà statue on 21 May 1972. Toth was not charged with any criminal offence after the incident. He was hospitalized in Italy for two years. On his release, he was immediately deported to Australia.
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Little is known of Toth's early life, apart from his birth in Pilisvörösvár, Hungary in 1938.
Vandalism of Pietà
Toth, wielding a geologist's hammer and shouting, "I am Jesus Christ — risen from the dead", attacked the statue, with fifteen blows removed Mary's arm at the elbow, knocked off a chunk of her nose, and chipped one of her eyelids. Toth was subdued by bystanders, including American sculptor Bob Cassilly, who was the first person to pull him away from the Pietà. He was never charged with the crime, in view of his apparent insanity. On 29 January 1973, he was committed to an Italian psychiatric hospital. He was released on 9 February 1975, and was immediately deported to Australia where he had studied prior to the attack; Australian authorities did not detain him. He resided in a nursing home in Strathfield, New South Wales until his death in 2012.
Literature and popular culture
- Comic book artist Steve Ditko used Toth's actions as the central metaphor in his 1992 examination of issues concerning creation and destruction, "Lazlo's Hammer" (corrected to "Laszlo's Hammer" in subsequent reprints and revisions).
- Oz character, Guillaume Tarrant is in part inspired by Toth.
- Australian cartoonist Michael Leunig published two Christmas cartoons in the 'Nation Review' in 1975 under the nom-de-plume Laszlo Toth.
- A martellate un pazzo in S. Pietro sfregia la «Pietà» di Michelangelo, La Stampa, 22 maggio 1972, p. 1.
- "Can Italy be Saved from Itself?". TIME magazine. 5 Jun 1972. Retrieved 15 March 2008.
- "Notes and Queries: Whatever happened to Laszlo Toth, the man who smashed Michelangelo's Pieta in 1972?". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 8 June 2006.
- "Chapel of the Pieta by Michelangelo Buonarroti, 1499". saintpetersbasilica.org. 23 September 2008. Retrieved 5 December 2009.
- "On Negation: Bilderverbot – The Prohibition Against Images". www.christiancapurro.com. 16 September 2005. Retrieved 5 December 2009.
- Gamboni, Dario (1997). The destruction of art: iconoclasm and vandalism since the French Revolution. Reaktion Books. ISBN 978-0-948462-94-8.
- Evers, Chia (2006). "Laszlo Toth, "Jesus Christ," Attacks the Pieta (May 21, 1972)". Today in Odd History. News of the Odd. Archived from the original on 16 May 2006. Retrieved 8 June 2006.
- Schlafly, Tom (2011-09-29). "Remembering Bob Cassilly". St. Louis Public Radio. Retrieved 2011-10-23.
- "The Laszlo Letters (Don Novello interviewed by Bob Garfield)". On the Media. WNYC Radio. 2003. Retrieved 8 June 2006.