Russian authorities are seeking the “harshest sentence possible” after a man attacked a painting of Ivan the Terrible in Moscow’s Tretyakov Gallery. Shortly before lashing at the masterpiece with a metal pole, the 37-year-old assailant reportedly downed 100 grams, or several ounces, of Vodka bought in the museum’s café. The attack is thought to be a nationalist outburst.
According to the museum’s curator, Tatyana Gorodkova, it exemplifies how Russians are finding it increasingly difficult in “differentiating artistic work from historical facts.” The 1581 painting which depicts the first Russian Tsar, Ivan the Terrible, cradling his dying son after dealing him a mortal blow in a fit of rage is considered by many to be the Mona Lisa of Russian art. The autocratic ruler is immortalized in Russian culture for expanding the country’s territories, despite killing women and children, and ordering cruel public tortures. But, Russian nationalists tend to disagree with the notion that Ivan killed his son, preferring to think he passed away from illness.
In a video published by the Interior Ministry, the man explained how he didn’t drink often, but was overcome with rage. “I came to see it, about eight in the evening I went to the cafe, I was already about to leave, and I drank vodka,” the man said in the video. “I don’t [usually] drink vodka, and something just snapped.”
Uninsured, the pierced painting has been badly damaged, the museum said in a statement. It’s the second time the painting has been violently attacked in 105 years. The country’s Deputy Culture Minister Vladimir Aristarkhov is “urging the harshest, most severe punishment for the man who damaged the picture,” because in the eyes of officials “three years is nothing compared to the value of this painting.”
And in an effort to further prevent men from blindly swing metal poles at the artworks, the museum has already banned the sale of alcohol and is considering hiring psychologists to pick out troublesome visitors in the crowds.