A security guard at a Russian gallery was charged with vandalism after he used a ballpoint pen to draw two sets of eyes on a painting worth around $1.4 million.
The guard, who has not been named, was accused of defacing the painting on his first day at work at an exhibition at the Boris Yeltsin Center in Ekaterinburg, Russia.
The ordeal, first reported on by Russian publication Art Newspaper, involved the "Three Figures" painting, a piece completed in the 1930s by Soviet artist Anna Leporskaya.
According to the outlet, visitors to the gallery alerted staff on December 7 after they spotted what appeared to be two pairs of "crudely-rendered eyes" scribbled on the painting.
Alexander Drozdov, executive director of the Boris Yeltsin Center, told Art Newspaper that the guard was a 60-year-old contracted worker employed by a private security organization.
Drozdov added that he used one of the ballpoint pens at the museum to make the etchings.[[imagecaption|| Credit: ITAR-TASS News Agency / Alamy]]
"His motives are still unknown, but the administration believes it was some kind of a lapse in sanity," exhibition curator Anna Reshetkina told the publication.
Per BBC News, Museum administrators fired the guard, and police opened an investigation into the incident. If found guilty, the guard could be sentenced to up to three months in prison.
The rest of the work in the exhibition has since been placed behind protective screens, according to The Washington Post. Leporskaya's painting is undergoing restoration, which is expected to cost around $3,400.
"The ink has slightly penetrated into the paint layer since the titanium white used to paint the faces is not covered with author’s varnish, as is often the case in abstract painting of that time," Ivan Petrov wrote in Russia's Art Newspaper.
"Fortunately, the vandal drew with a pen without strong pressure, and therefore the relief of the strokes as a whole was not disturbed. The left figure also had a small crumble of the paint layer up to the underlying layer on the face."