Man charged with slashing of National Gallery masterpiece

By Allen Cone   |   Updated March 20, 2017 at 10:52 PM

March 20 (UPI) -- A man has been charged with slashing a renowned painting at the National Gallery in London using a "sharp object."

Keith Gregory, 63, was charged Sunday with causing criminal damage to the 1785 painting by British master Thomas Gainsborough on Saturday, a Metropolitan Police Service spokesman told NPR. No residence was given.

The 1785 oil painting is officially titled Mr and Mrs William Hallett and is commonly known as The Morning Walk.

The suspect was quickly apprehended by museum staff and visitors, and then arrested by the police, the gallery said in a statement.

The man entered Room 34 of the east wing with a sharp object at about 2:15 p.m. Saturday, the gallery said. Assistants and visitors detained him before Metropolitan Police arrested him.

The east wing was evacuated and closed for two hours. The painting also was removed from viewing.

"The damage is limited to two long scratches which have penetrated the paint layers, but not the supporting canvas," a spokesperson said in a statement.

The gallery said it has begun "consolidating the pigment layers in the areas affected by the scratches."

"The preliminary reports suggest that the damage can be repaired relatively easily and the picture should be back on the wall shortly," the release said.

The painting depicts a young couple walking with a white, fluffy dog. "William Hallett and Elizabeth Stephen were both aged 21 and due to be married in the summer of 1785, shortly after the painting was completed," according to the museum's description on its website.

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