Saturday 21 October 2017

Tourist 'saw accused put fist through €10m Monet painting'

Monet's Argenteuil Basin With A Single Sailboat was seriously damaged by a member of the public at the National Gallery of Ireland
Monet's Argenteuil Basin With A Single Sailboat was seriously damaged by a member of the public at the National Gallery of Ireland

Jessica Magee

A TOURIST who witnessed a €10m Claude Monet painting being damaged said he saw the accused man "lift his fist and put it through the painting".

Andrew Shannon (48), of Willans Way, Ongar, Dublin 15, denies causing criminal damage to the oil painting at the National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin on June 29, 2012.

The painting, entitled 'Argenteuil Basin with a Single Sailboat', dates from about 1874 and is Ireland's only work in public collection by the celebrated French impressionist.

Two tourists who travelled from New Zealand to give evidence told the jury at the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court that they were standing next to the Monet painting when the incident happened.

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.

Mr Williams said he manoeuvred the accused into the middle 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 Mr Williams.

Mr Williams' wife, Dr Toni Ashton, told the jury that Mr Shannon "seemed to appear out of nowhere" and that she saw his fist "like a hammer".

DISORIENTED

Ms Ashton said Mr Shannon seemed a little disoriented and "out of it" and that he kept looking at the ground.

Earlier, the jury saw CCTV footage of the incident which was played over at least eight times.

It shows Mr Shannon entering the Millennium Wing of the National Gallery a few minutes before 11am and going up to the first floor.

He is carrying a yellow plastic bag. A yellow plastic bag discovered later at the scene by gardai was found to contain a can of Nitromors paint stripper.

Just after 11am, Mr Shannon is captured walking into Room 10 and taking a quick look at a number of paintings.

He leaves the room for a minute, goes back in, walks around a few times and approaches the painting.

He is then seen putting his right arm out and seeming to fall onto the painting before he is grabbed by a bystander.

Security attendant Peter Judge said he had been patrolling several rooms when he heard "a large bang" from Room 10 followed by visitors screaming and shouting.

"I saw a gentleman standing in front of Claude Monet and I said to him, 'Jesus, what have you done?' He said, 'I want to get out of here', and I said, 'You're not going anywhere'."

The court also heard from assistant conservator Elline Von Monschaw, who is leading the team working to repair the painting.

She described the tears made in the canvas as being "very sharp and harsh".

Defence counsel Brendan Grehan said his client had a history of heart problems but accepts that the damage to the painting was caused by his hand.

The trial continues.

Irish Independent

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