In September 1975, this painting was damaged while on view at Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum. Wilhelmus de Rijk, a 38-year-old former teacher from the village of Bloemendaal, used a bread knife to carve a series of jagged cuts into the canvas. Even after a guard grabbed his arm, de Rijk continued moving across the painting, slashing with the knife and tearing away a portion of canvas.
Rijk, who had obtained the knife from at a downtown restaurant where he’d eaten lunch before going to the museum, told police he’d been “sent by the Lord.”“I was ordered to do it,” he said. “I had to do it.” Authorities said he had a history of mental illness and was initially held on a charge of willful destruction. In the end, he was not taken to trial, but instead sent to an asylum, where he eventually committed suicide.