Leading article: Art of destruction

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One can easily sympathise with the bitterness felt by the widow of Henri Cartier-Bresson at the careless treatment of some of the works the pioneering photographer had entrusted to the French authorities. But the fact is that great works often have traumatic histories. The Parthenon was blown up in the 17th century when the Turks used it as a dynamite store. The handwritten manuscript of Thomas Carlyle's History of the French Revolution was thrown onto the fire by John Stuart Mill's maid. The Bayeux Tapestry was used to cover an ammunition wagon.

More recently, a painting of Lucian Freud was destroyed by workers at Sotheby's. At least, Mr Cartier-Bresson is in some distinguished company.

And now some of the damaged photographs are appearing on the black market. One can only hope the new owners will be more careful with them than the last.

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