Monet painting 'severely damaged' by intruders

8th October 2007, Comments 0 comments

8 October 2007, PARIS (AFP) - France's culture minister called Sunday for tougher penalties for vandalism against works of art after drunken intruders seriously damaged a painting by Impressionist painter Claude Monet in Paris.

8 October 2007

PARIS (AFP) - France's culture minister called Sunday for tougher penalties for vandalism against works of art after drunken intruders seriously damaged a painting by Impressionist painter Claude Monet in Paris.

The damage was done overnight Saturday to Monet's painting "Le pont d'Argenteuil" (The bridge at Argenteuil), after a break-in at the Musee d'Orsay, on the Left Bank.

"We have to see how we can toughen the penalties when there are break-ins to museums, churches and monuments," said Culture Minister Christine Albanel after visiting the museum to inspect the damage.

She said she had already raised the matter with Justice Minister Rachida Dati.

"The sense of impunity is the worst thing," Albanel added.

Earlier Sunday, culture ministry spokesman Paul Rechter said: "A group of individuals in a state of some inebriation broke into the Musee d'Orsay. They set off the alarm, and as they left struck a picture, causing severe damage."

The culprits had not been caught, he added.

The incident happened during Paris's so-called Nuit Blanche (White Night), when music and cultural events are staged late into the night and thousands throng the streets of the capital.

The Musee d'Orsay however was not involved in the event.

It was also the night that France beat New Zealand in their Rugby World Cup quarter-final match, sparking raucous celebrations across the city.

Monet's "Le pont d'Argenteuil" was painted in 1874 and shows sailboats moored before a bridge over the river Seine west of Paris.

The canvas was "ripped over at least 10 centimetres (four inches)," the ministry said.

The Musee d'Orsay, opened in 1986 in a former railway station, contains France's largest collection of late 19th and early 20th century art.

In its information on the painting, the Musee d'Orsay says that in 1874 -- the year of the first exhibition by the emerging Impressionist group of painters -- Monet (1840-1926) painted the bridge at Argenteuil seven times.

"This shows how attached the artist was to the motif, using the flowing river as a counterpoint for the geometrical mass of the bridge and its piles reflected in the water," the museum says.

The painting measures 60.5 by 80 centimetres (24 by 31.5 inches) and was situated in a room on the ground floor of the museum.

Several recent incidents have raised questions over the security of works of art in French museums.

On Tuesday a woman is to appear in court after she painted a lipstick kiss in July on a picture by the American Cy Twombly in Avignon.  

In August an armed gang broke into the Fine Arts museum in Nice and stole four paintings by Monet, Alfred Sisley and Jan Bruegel.

In February a self-proclaimed performance artist was given a suspended prison term for using a hammer to attack the surrealist work "Fountain" -- a urinal by French-US artist Marcel Duchamp -- at the Pompidou Centre in Paris.

AFP

Subject: French news

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