The oil painting by Australian artist Ralph Heimans was a rare acquisition by Westminster Abbey.
Note: This article is from the Guardian.
A man will appear in court on Friday accused of defacing a portrait of the Queen in Westminster Abbey, Scotland Yard has said. Tim Haries, 41, from Doncaster in South Yorkshire, will appear at Westminster magistrates’ court charged with criminal damage over £5,000.
The 3.3m by 2.7m (9ft by 11ft) oil painting, by Australian artist Ralph Heimans, had been on display in the Chapter House since last month – it has now been removed from public view. It was commissioned last year to mark the Queen’s diamond jubilee.
The painting, the Coronation Theatre, which depicts the Queen in the symbolic setting of the abbey’s sacrarium, was a rare acquisition by the abbey and went on display in the Chapter House on 23 May.
It is an imagined scene, set at night, with the Queen in state dress including the crimson velvet robe of state that she wore at her 1953 coronation.
In a statement on Thursday the abbey said: “In an incident at lunchtime today, a visitor to the abbey sprayed paint on the Ralph Heimans portrait of the Queen presently on display in the Chapter House.
“Until work can be done to remedy the damage it will, very regrettably, not be possible to have the painting on public view.”
Fathers4Justice claimed the criminal damage was part of a Father’s Day protest by one of their members.
Officers were called to the Abbey around 12.30pm on Thursday after security guards detained a man.
The painting was bought for the abbey by Lord Harris of Peckham who told BBC News that the defacement was “devastating”.
“I just think this painting would have been in the abbey for many, many years, and let’s hope it can be restored.” He had been told that turquoise paint had been sprayed “over quite a lot of it”, he said.
The work was officially unveiled in London, where Heimans is now based, and was exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra, until the end of March.
Heimans said at the time of its first public unveiling: “Through the narrative of the portrait I wanted to produce a work of particular significance for the diamond jubilee. By representing the Queen as she reflects on this incredible milestone in her life, I wanted to explore the dynamic between her public role and the personal, emotional dimension.”
Speaking at the time the abbey purchased it, the Very Reverend Dr John Hall, Dean of Westminster, said: “The Queen’s diamond jubilee portrait by Ralph Heimans speaks powerfully of the moment of Her Majesty’s anointing and coronation.
“The Queen in the glorious space of the abbey standing at the very place where she committed herself to God and her people reflects powerfully on the years of service. I am delighted that this portrait will help countless numbers of future visitors to the abbey to celebrate and give thanks for this remarkable reign.”
The artist’s spokesman said he was aware of the incident but would not be commenting further.
Fathers4Justice said the action was a “desperate plea for help” from the arrested man, who had apparently lost contact with his two children. A spokeswoman said the man had been one of a number of campaigners who attended a meeting at the House of Commons to discuss shared parenting this week. “Out of 650 MPs only three bothered to stick their heads through the door and that was just for a few derisory minutes,” she said. “Nobody is listening.”
The group has been responsible for many high-profile stunts in its campaign for improved rights for men who say they have been denied access to their children. Protests have included throwing flour at then prime minister Tony Blair in the House of Commons, and scaling buildings including Buckingham Palace dressed as comic superhero characters.
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