Art gallery seeks alcohol ban after painting is damaged in vodka-fuelled pole attack

An art gallery in Russia is seeking to ban on-site alcohol sales after a man, who had been knocking back vodka in the café, caused “serious damage” to a painting by Ilya Repin after striking it with a metal security pole.

A 37-year-old man, reportedly called Igor Podporin from Voronezh, was detained at the State Tretyakov gallery in central Moscow after attacking a painting last Friday (25 May.)

The artwork – Ivan the Terrible and His Son Ivan on November 16, 1581 – completed by Russian realist Ilya Repin in 1885, suffered “serious damage” after the man used a metal security pole to smash through its protective glass covering.

Commenting on the incident, the gallery said: “As a result of the blows the thick glass was smashed. Serious damage was done to the painting. The canvas was pierced in three places in the central part of the work which depicts the figure of the tsarevich [the tsar’s son]”.

“Luckily, the most valuable images, those of the faces and hands of the tsar and prince, were not damaged”.

Speaking to local media, Zelfira Tregulova, director of the Tretyakov, added: “As we’ve now understood, there were small bottles of wine or cognac in the café. We’re going to talk to the café and ask them to remove them”.

In a video released by the interior ministry, however, the man claimed it was vodka that had caused him to become “overwhelmed by something”.

“I came to look at the painting,” he allegedly told police. “I wanted to leave, but then dropped into the buffet and drank 100g of vodka. I don’t drink vodka and became overwhelmed by something”.

The man faces charges associated with damaging a cultural artefact which could amount to three years in prison and a 3 million ruble fine (£33,000), according to the RIA Novosti agency.

It is now understood that once restored, the painting will be protected by a bulletproof case. The controversial image, which was also damaged in an incident in 1913, has been displayed at Tretyakov since the 19th century. While it has not been valued, in 2011, another work by Repin, A Parisian Café, made £4.5 million at auction.

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