This November we keep the theme of Guy Fawkes’ Night running as we look back at some key pieces of art that were so close to being destroyed.

Marcel Duchamp - Fountain


Whenever a revolutionary piece of art comes along, there’s always a bit of turbulence. Marcel Duchamp’s famous urinal was not only urinated on by a performance artist but almost smashed to bits by a hammer several years later … by the same artist!

Rembrandt van Rijn – Danae


One of Rembrandt’s most famous paintings, Danae, narrowly avoided melt-down whilst it was on display in the 1980’s. Hanging in the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, one visitor took out a knife and began to slash the canvas around the figure’s stomach, throwing acid onto the painting before being escorted from the gallery. Twelve years later, Danae was restored to its original form by a dedicated team of artists, and remains on display.

Ilya Repin – Ivan Grozny and his son Ivan


This disaster proves that ‘taking a few backups’ applies to us all, not just the world of IT. After receiving three large gouges from a knife on the faces of the two Ivans, the painting was restored by two experts in under a week! It is thought the speed and expertise of the repair was greatly assisted by many good-quality photographs of the painting.

Leonardo da Vinci – The Virgin and Child with St Anne and St John the Baptist

The work from the famous Mona Lisa artist took almost a year to restore after a gallery visitor shooting at it in political protest. The painting, The Virgin and Child with St Anne and St John the Baptist was on display at the National Gallery in London behind protective glass. Although the glass did not break, the shattered splinters from the blast caused significant damage to the painting. It is now fully restored.

Picasso – Le Reve

The first Picasso to be accidentally damaged was Le Reve, a painting of his mistress Marie-Therese Walter. The owner of the work and casino magnate was due to sell the painting for a cool $139 million dollars before leaning on it and piercing the picture with his right elbow. Luckily, he was able to provide the funds of $90,000 for its repair.