A witness has come forward to say he saw a man deliberately putting his fist through a €10 million ($13.6 million) Claude Monet painting at the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin last year.
The accused, Andrew Shannon, 48, of Dublin, denies causing criminal damage to the gilt-framed painting, 'Argenteuil Basin with a Single Sailboat,' on June 29, 2012.
The Irish Times reports that two tourists traveled from New Zealand to give evidence, telling the jury at the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court that they were standing next to the Monet painting when the incident occurred.
One witness, Michael Williams, said he felt the damage had been “quite deliberate."
“Out of the side of my eye I saw this man lift his fist and put it through the painting. To me, it was clearly what he wanted to do,” he said.
“He said to me he was feeling faint. I grabbed him straight after the event and he had his excuse ready to go. I couldn’t help but feel that it was planned,” he said.
Williams said he maneuvered Shannon into the center of the room “so he couldn’t do any more damage.”
“I didn’t need to support him, he didn’t collapse to the floor. He sat down and stayed erect; he didn’t lean forward as a person would who was feeling faint,” said Williams, a flight attendant.
Williams’s wife, Dr Toni Ashton, told the jury that the accused “seemed to appear out of nowhere,” and that she saw his fist “like a hammer."
“He seemed to lunge at the painting with quite a lot of force in the body,” she said.
Dr Ashton said the accused seemed “out of it” and that he kept looking at the ground. She also said that Shannon told them he had a heart condition and asked for water.
The jury also saw CCTV footage of the incident at least eight times.
The work, which dates from about 1874, is Ireland’s only work in public collection by Claude Monet. The director of the gallery, Sean Rainbird, said the painting by the celebrated French impressionist had been bequeathed to the gallery in 1924 from the collection of Edward Martin and was "obviously a great treasure of the collection. He said the painting had an approximate value of €10 million ($13.5m), but added that this year several Monet paintings had sold for up to $40 million.
Conservator Elline Von Monschaw, who is leading the team repairing the damaged painting, told the jury: “I presume there was quite a forceful impact on the painting, causing the fibres to break straight away rather than stretching and elongating and then breaking."
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