Art students who are invited to take a class in the hallowed halls of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York know better than to chew gum or chitchat. Nor do they need to be told not to touch. Pity the poor student then who lost her balance, toppled over and fell smack into a Picasso.
Exactly what propelled the aspiring artist from her place of work into the canvas – a 6ft by 4ft work from Pablo Picasso's Rose period called The Actor – remains a mystery, particularly as it was hanging safely on a gallery wall at the time. But it was enough in any event to leave a 6in tear in its bottom right-hand corner.
Kindness drove the museum to withhold the name of the perpetrator of Friday's involuntary sabotage. The £80m painting has already been taken to the repair and restoration department and purportedly will be as good as new in time for the Picasso in the Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibition set to open on 27 April.
In a statement meant to reassure all anxious Picasso lovers, the museum said: "The damage did not occur in the focal point of the composition and the curatorial and conservation staffs fully expect that the repair will be unobtrusive."
The Met mishap might remind some people of the day in February four years ago when a man lost his footing on a staircase in a Cambridge museum and managed, in the course of his fall, to smash three Chinese vases from the Qing Dynasty. He attributed the accident to a "Norman Wisdom" moment.
Painted in the winter of 1904-05, The Actor was donated to the Met in 1952 by the automobile heiress Thelma Chrysler Foy.