As the crowds trickled through the Sully wing of the Louvre one recent afternoon, a stocky, middle-aged Frenchman looked around furtively before whipping a gilt-framed painting from under his leather jacket and fixing it to the wall.

Placed alongside the august portraits of Salle 59, the miniature – a vanité depicting two skulls – held its own amid the splendour of the room’s more conventional treasures.

But its presence was not welcome and when the artist returned to see it today it had been removed by irate museum staff. “Now I have to write a letter to the president director-general or someone to get it back. It’s pathetic,” he said.

Pascal Guérineau, 47, has in recent weeks become the bête noire of Paris’s most prestigious galleries and their eagle-eyed security guards.

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Lizzie Davies
Guardian

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