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Fleeting Wonders: Watch One Stumble Ruin $1.5 Million Worth of Flowers

In the history of destroyed art, are there any more tragic or strangely gratifying examples of destruction than those caused by bumbling?

The latest example of masterpiece-tarnishing klutzery comes from a young boy in Taiwan, who has tripped over his own feet and inadvertently punched a great big hole in painter Paulo Porpora’s 350-year old work, Flowers.

As The Guardian reports, the 12-year-old boy was perusing the Face of Leonardo: Images of a Genius exhibition at Taiwan’s Huashan 1914 Creative Park, when he lost his footing near the edge of the protective rope and tumbled toward the 17th-century painting. An oil-on-canvas still life, the historic work of art depicts a colorful flower arrangement held in a black vase. As can be seen in the museum’s security footage, the pre-teen valiantly tried to save himself from falling into the painting, while attempting not to spill the drink he had in his hand. Unfortunately, he only achieved one of those goals.

There is now a fist-sized, U-shaped tear marring the painting, which has been valued at $1.5 million. The boy looks visibly shaken in the security footage, caught in that breathless, liminal moment when you know you’ve irrevocably stepped over the line, but have not yet suffered the consequences.

On the bright side, Flowers is part of a private collection, and the painting is well-insured. The kindly owners of the work have said that neither the boy, nor his family will be held responsible for the restoration costs of the work. 

Every day, we track down a fleeting wonder—something amazing that’s only happening right now. Have a tip for us? Tell us about it! Send your temporary miracles to cara@atlasobscura.com.