A security guard in a Russian art gallery damaged a million dollar painting by doodling eyes on it, in what is being called “a lapse in sanity.”

Anna Leporskaya’s avant-garde painting Three Figures was painted at some time in the 1930s, and features three people, done in broad simple strokes with elegant shading. All three have blank, round faces, but nonetheless seem to be staring back at the viewer. The painting is on display at the Yeltsin Center in Yekaterinburg, Russia.

In December, two guests to the art gallery who were familiar with painting reported that it had been vandalized. Gallery employees found that someone had draw eyes on two of the three figures in the painting, little round eyes rendered with a ball point pen.

Security cameras quickly identified the culprit – a sixty-year-old security guard employed by a private contractor, working his very first day at the gallery. Using one of the Yeltsin Center’s own branded ballpoint pens, he doodled little round eyes on the blank faces.

“His motives are still unknown but the administration believes it was some kind of a lapse in sanity,” said exhibition curator Anna Reshetkina.

The doodling penetrated the first layer of paint but fortunately did not reach the canvas. The damage was originally called insignificant, but paint has begun to flake away around the damage. Police have opened an investigation as of last week, and if found guilty of vandalism, the guard could face a fine of up to $5000 and up to three months of either prison or forced labor. The Minister of Culture has asked for a greater charge, one of “destruction or damage to cultural heritage objects and monuments,” which would mean a much higher fine and three years of prison or labor, instead of three months.

The painting has been returned to the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow, which owns it, to be restored. Restoration is estimated to cost approximately 250,000 roubles, or $3345. Screens have also been installed over all other works exhibited at the Yeltsin Center.

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