Peter Paul Rubens “Adoration of the Magi” 1634 / coin
In June 1974, this work was damaged while on view at King’s College Chapel in Cambridge, England. Having broken into the space overnight, unidentified vandals used a coin to scratch the letters “IRA” (the initials of the Irish Republican Army) in 2-ft-high letters across the painting’s surface.
The damage was discovered the following day by a tourist. The police, meanwhile, were already en route, as chapel attendants had reported a burglary: it seems the vandals had also forced open a 15th-century oak coffer, in which tourists place offerings, and stolen some coins.
While the scratches damaged the painting’s surface, they did not penetrate to the pigment; the work was eventually restored.