A 12-year-old Taiwanese boy lived out a slapstick nightmare at the weekend when he tripped at a museum and broke his fall with a 350-year-old painting, smashing a hole in the work of art valued at $1.5m.
Footage released by the organisers of the Face of Leonardo: Images of a Genius exhibition in Taipei shows the boy in shorts, trainers, a blue Puma T-shirt and holding a drink walk pass the still life, catching his foot and stumbling over.
He looks up at the Paolo Porpora oil on canvas painting of flowers, shown later to have a fist-sized gash at the bottom, and freezes, looking around at other people in the room.
The organisers will not ask the boy’s family to pay for the restoration costs, according to Focus Taiwan news. It said the exhibition organiser, Sun Chi-hsuan, said the boy was very nervous but not to be blamed and the painting, part of a private collection, was insured.
The exhibition, which also includes portraits of Leonardo, shows 55 paintings in Taiwan “gathered from the finest art collectors in the world”, according to the organisers.
“All 55 paintings in the venue are authentic pieces and they are very rare and precious,” a post on the exhibition’s Facebook page said. “Once these works are damaged, they are permanently damaged.”
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.
Organiser Sun Chi-hsuan dismissed later reports in Taiwanese media that the damaged art might in fact be a painting from another 17th-century Italian painter, Mario Nuzzi, valued only at about €30,000 (£22,000).
“There is nothing to respond to. Of course they are different,” he was quoted in Focus Taiwan news as saying.
The Web Gallery of Art, a database of European fine art, said Flowers was the only Porpora work that is signed and was painted about 1660. Porpora was born in Naples but moved to Rome, where he worked for the Chigi family.
The boy joins a short, cringing list of art fumblers. In 2006 a man tripped over his shoelace in the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge in the UK and smashed three 300-year-old Chinese vases. In 2010 a woman at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art fell into a Picasso, causing a 15cm tear.
Possibly the most egregious blunder was committed by the casino mogul Steve Wynn, who elbowed Picasso’s 1932 masterpiece Le Rêve. Wynn still managed to sell the painting in 2013 for $155m, a record sum.