Policeman rips hole in royal oil painting

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The Independent Online

A policeman who was determined to protect a royal oil painting from thieves accidentally tore a gaping hole in its canvas.

A policeman who was determined to protect a royal oil painting from thieves accidentally tore a gaping hole in its canvas.

In the best traditions of the Keystone Cops and Inspector Clouseau, the unnamed officer is reported to have toppled from a chair while trying to close a window at St James's Palace.

The chair is believed to have collapsed and as the policeman fell, he grabbed some curtains and landed in a heap of fabric and oil painting.

A source quoted by the News of the World said: "He then saw the hole in the canvas. He still doesn't know how he did it. He either stuffed his hand through or a curtain hook ripped into it."

Fortunately for the officer, early reports that his fall had ruined a £1m painting by the Queen's favourite painter, George Stubbs, appeared to be incorrect. The damaged painting is believed to have been by a little-known 19th-century artist called G. Morley. Its value is unknown.

A spokeswoman for St James's Palace said it would be possible to repair the canvas by re-weaving it. The Metropolitan Police confirmed that a police officer damaged a painting at the palace at 8.30pm last Tuesday. "There will be no action taken because it was an accident," a spokesman said.

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