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6 Priceless Art Pieces Were Ruined by Reckless People

Have you ever wondered why there are so many museum workers overlooking tourists and preventing you from touching anything? Well, there’s actually a reason for that, and museums that don’t have enough staff sometimes end up paying with… well, the museum exhibits themselves. As these 6 fairly recent accidents show, tourists and passers-by can be more reckless around precious art than you'd expect, and sometimes, this ends tragically, and the invaluable art pieces are completely or partially destroyed.

1. 'Pauline Bonaparte as Venus Victrix' by Antonio Canova (1808)

Priceless Art Pieces Ruined by Reckless People 'Pauline Bonaparte as Venus Victrix' by Antonio Canova (1808)
It's difficult to believe this, but some tourists actually decide to use art as furniture! In July 2020, Antonio Canova's masterpiece titled Venus Victrix depicting Napoleon Bonaparte's sister Pauline was ruined as an unnamed Austrian tourist tried to lounge on the sculpture when trying to take a selfie.
As a result, the toes of the reclining figure cracked and were badly damaged. Thanks to surveillance cameras, the staff of the Antonio Canova Museum managed to identify the reckless museum-goer and even pointed out that he himself had noticed the damage. The man subsequently apologized and offered to pay for the restoration of the sculpture. You can see the security camera footage of the incident in the video below.

2. 'Annunciazione' by Giovanni d'Ambrogio (1390)

Priceless Art Pieces Ruined by Reckless People 'Annunciazione' by Giovanni d'Ambrogio (1390)
The previously-mentioned sculpture is by far not the only 'victim' of the overly creative tourist selfie. In fact, as you read this article further, you will start seeing a curious pattern - selfies are the major reason for the destruction of the majority of these pieces. The unfortunate 'Annunciazione', a Renaissance-era sculpture by the Italian sculptor Giovanni d’Ambrogio held at the Museo dell' Opera del Duomo in Florence, was damaged in 2013 while tourists from Missouri wanted to check how his own pinky finger compared to that of the Virgin Mary.
As you may expect, the man ended up breaking off the little finger of the statue, though not completely. Luckily, though, the damaged digit was not an original part of the sculpture, but rather a plaster restoration, and museum restorers do plan to repair the lost finger in the future. Note that even in the photo of the statue we featured above, the damaged pinky is still missing.

3. The Actor by Pablo Picasso (1904)

Priceless Art Pieces Ruined by Reckless People The Actor by Pablo Picasso (1904)

This early Picasso painting hanging on a wall of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City had a slightly different story. In January 2010, a woman who took a class at the museum slipped and crashed into the painting, which resulted in a 6-inch tear and a dent in the bottom right part of the artwork. For the museum staff, this meant an enormous and challenging restoration process, one that ended up taking 3 months to complete. In April of 2010 the painting was finally returned to the same wall, but now with plexiglass covering to ensure it would never be damaged again.

4. 'Ecce Homo' by Elías García Martínez (1930)

Priceless Art Pieces Ruined by Reckless People 'Ecce Homo' by Elías García Martínez (1930)
Image Source: ThePhandom_Goodboi/ Reddit (right)
One of the most ill-fated and simultaneously hilarious "restorations" of the century was that of the 'Ecce Homo' fresco in a church in Borja, Spain. The wall painting was deteriorating due to water damage, and so Cecilia Gimenez, a senior parishioner, decided to take it upon herself to "fix" it using a 10-year-old photo of the fresco. We probably don't have to tell you that the results were utterly hilarious, as the new and improved version of the painting made headlines all across the world and became an internet sensation in 2012-2014.
The "Potato Jesus", as the fresco was dubbed in the media, was initially planned to be restored professionally, but then the church decided to embrace the internet fame of the "masterpiece" when they started noticing an influx of tourists wanting to see the ill-fated fresco. Today, 'Ecce Homo' has become a part of history, the fresco has been covered in plexiglass, and tourists reportedly pay $1.25 to see the restoration.

5. Dom Sebastiao Statue (1894)

Priceless Art Pieces Ruined by Reckless People Dom Sebastiao Statue (1894)
Another victim of the tourist selfie was the Dom Sebastiao statue that has been part of the facade of the Rossio Train Station in Lisbon, Portugal, for over a century. In 2016, a 24-year-old tourist attempted to climb the statue to capture a selfie with the 16th-century king. Needless to say, the freestanding statue was tipped over as a result. It fell onto the ground, shattering into several pieces, and to this day, it hasn't been restored. The perpetrator attempted to flee the crime scene, but he was captured by the authorities and faced a trial. Above, you can see the statue before the fall.

6. Qing Dynasty Vases (16-17th century)

Rule number two for museum-goers - always tie your shoelaces, or even better, wear shoes that don't have them altogether. This rule, together with "no creative selfies", too, was the conclusion of a tragic accident. In February 2006, Nick Flynn got lost and accidentally took the wrong stairway at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, England.

In an attempt to get back on the right track, Flynn tripped on his untied shoelace and fell crashing into a 16-17 century Qing Dynasty vase, which then started a chain reaction and hit another vase, amassing to 500,000 British pounds in damages. Both vases shattered into hundreds of pieces, and Flynn was banned from the museum. Luckily, one of the vases was subsequently professionally restored. To view pictures of the fall and damages, visit the Guardian's coverage of the accident.

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