In 2015, the British art historian Bendor Grosvenor came across a painting by his favorite artist, the Baroque 17th-century portraitist John Michael Wright. Grosvenor scooped up the work for around $6,680 (£5,250), impressed by the fact that it was in “excellent condition, with all the original glazes and details wonderfully intact,” he tells the Telegraph’s Helena Horton.
Enter Grosvenor’s cat Padme.
When a cold British winter was followed by a hot summer, a stretcher that displayed the painting moved, causing two small tears in the artwork—a portrait of an unidentified “gent,” Grosvenor tells Smithsonian.com. So Grosvenor, who is best known for appearing in the BBC art programs “Fake or Fortune?” and “British Lost Masterpieces,” decided to send it from his home in Scotland to London to be relined. To prepare the painting for the journey, he lined the work with facing paper and brushed it with a gelatin and water solution.
It was then—presumably sensing the perfect moment to wreak havoc—Padme struck.
“And as I stood back to admire my handiwork, up jumped our cat, landing forcefully in the center of the painting with a crunch,” Grosvenor tells Horton. “Disaster.”
Born in London and trained in Edinburgh, Wright was according to the Tate, “one of the leading indigenous British painters of his generation,” distinguished by the vivid realism of his portraits. He was a client of Charles II, who was restored to the English throne in 1660 after years in exile, and of his brother James II, who became king in 1685. Wright was so well-liked that he attracted high-ranking clients at a time when foreign artists were in vogue.
But Padme the cat, it seems, was immune to Wright’s many charms. Horton reports that it will cost Grosvenor about as much to restore the painting as it did to buy it. For his part, Grosvenor is just glad that the damage wasn’t worse. “[A]t least the cat landed on [the subject’s] clothing, and not his face,” he says.
Padme has now joined an unfortunate club that shares the dishonor of wrecking precious works of art—among the human members, to cite only recent examples, a group of selfie-takers who toppled a wall of Dali and Goya works and a man who broke off and stole the thumb of a terracotta warrior. The feline offender, it should be noted, does not seem to have much remorse about her misdeeds. Padme is “not a fan of John Michael Wright,” Grosvenor tells Horton, “ and regrets nothing.”