Famous Russian Painting Damaged After Man Attacked With Pole

Ivan the Terrible And His Son Ivan On November 16, 1581

An Ivan the Terrible painting is having a no good, very bad day in Russia today. A controversial painting by Russian realist Ilya Repin, which depicts the Grand Prince of Moscow holding his dying son in his arms, is one of the most famous works of art in Russia history, and it's reportedly in seriously critical condition after an unknown man grabbed a metal pole and attacked the iconic painting in a Moscow gallery on Friday evening. The artwork, titled Ivan the Terrible and His Son Ivan on November 16, 1581 is currently torn in three pieces, and here's what else we know about the high-profile vandalism.

It was close to the gallery's closing time when an unidentified made his way past a group of staff members and grabbed one of the metal security poles -- the ones typically used to keep the public at a distance away from the artwork -- and struck the Ivan the Terrible canvas' protective glass, its frame and then the preserved artwork itself several times before he was eventually stopped. According to those close to the situation, as reported by The Guardian, the pole-wielding man managed to smash the thick glass and then provided serious damage to the painting, as it was eventually pierced in three locations. The frame of the portrait was also greatly damaged.

However, one minor upside to the art defamation is that the painting was not completely damaged in a few crucial places. The section with Ivan the Terrible and son Ivan wasn't damaged, including their faces and hands, depictions that carry a great amount of weight and artistic significance in the controversial piece of1885 art.

In a later video, the vandal claims he was drunk on vodka and became "overwhelmed" in the act, which resulted in his damaging actions. He is reportedly facing upwards of three years in prison, along with a $43,000-plus fine, for damaging the cultural artifact. Details known at this time are scattered, but he is believed to be 37 years old and a possible resident of Voronezh. He is currently detained and will likely soon receive his official charges for his actions. It's still not entirely clear why he decided to strike the painting, but it's believed that the man found the portrait to be "inaccurate." He isn't the only one who feels this way, as it has been a source of contention for years, and several people have requested that the painting be removed from the gallery for its unauthentic portrayal of Ivan the Terrible. The gallery has copiously denied this request.

In the video where the man confessed to this crime, he seemed to be aware of the severity of his actions, explaining that he came to the gallery to look at the painting. He "wanted to leave," but he found himself at the buffet drinking a bunch of vodka and, well, you know how these things go. The man admits that he doesn't usually drink vodka and he quickly became "overwhelmed by something."

The painting's future remains unclear, but its prospects are not entirely dour. According to Olga Temerina, the deputy head of the Grabar Art Conservation Centre, the situation "is not quite a tragedy." They are currently hopeful about restoring the famous artwork. However, it'll likely take a couple years -- at least -- until it's ready to be on display again, and likely with extra precautions this time around.

Will Ashton

Will is an entertainment writer based in Pittsburgh, PA. His writing can also be found in The Playlist, Cut Print Film, We Got This Covered, The Young Folks, Slate and other outlets. He also co-hosts the weekly film/TV podcast Cinemaholics with Jon Negroni and he likes to think he's a professional Garfield enthusiast.