Smite at the Museum: A 12-Year-Old Boy’s Fist Meets a 17th-Century Painting

No harm came to the Taiwanese preteen. The same can’t be said about Paolo Porpora’s “Flowers”—but it will be restored.

It’s not quite the story of the Spanish woman who tried to restore a fresco of Jesus, but turned the “once-dignified portrait [into] … a crayon sketch of a very hairy monkey in an ill-fitting tunic”—it’s not even close. But it’s not every day we get to see someone put a hole in a historic work of art.

A 12-year-old Taiwanese boy on a museum tour with his mother Sunday tripped near “Flowers”—a 17th-century oil panting by the Italian artist Paolo Porpora valued at $1.5 million—and punched a fist-sized hole through it.

Thanks to the miracle of technology, you can watch what happened here:

Focus Taiwan News adds that exhibition organizers said the boy was nervous and his family will not be asked to pay for the cost of restoring the painting, which is insured. Taiwanese authorities are not identifying the boy.

The damaged painting is the only one Porpora is believed to have signed. It was part of an exhibition at the Huashan 1914 Creative Park that showcases Italian artists.

The Guardian has more on the artist:

Porpora was a leading still life artist who produced baroque-style paintings, often of fruit and flowers. The damaged work, 200cm tall, depicts flowers in a vase. …

The Web Gallery of Art, a database of European fine art, said Flowers was the only Porpora work that is signed and was painted in about 1660. Porpora was born in Naples but moved to Rome, where he worked for the Chigi family.

Accidents involving works of art aren’t new, of course. There’s the famous incident in 2006 involving Steve Wynn, whose elbow damaged Picasso’s “Le Rêve,” which the casino mogul had agreed to sell for $139 million. The deal fell through after that, but lest you feel bad for Wynn—or the portrait of Picasso’s mistress—the restored artwork was sold two years ago for a record figure: $155 million.