London’s National Gallery was partially evacuated on Saturday (18 March) after a man armed with what appeared to be a screwdriver attacked a painting by English artist Thomas Gainsborough.

‘Mr and Mrs William Hallett’ (1785) will need to undergo conservation after 63 year old Keith Gregory took to the work with a sharp object leaving two long scratches. The attack took place in Room 34 of the East Wing of the National Gallery around 14:15 GMT on Saturday afternoon. Gallery assistants and members of the public restrained Gregory who was then arrested by the police. On Sunday, Gregory was charged with causing criminal damage to the painting. He is due to appear at Westminster Magistrates Court today (20 March). Following the attack, the gallery’s East Wing was closed but reopened within two hours.

According to a spokesperson for the National Gallery, the scratches appear to have penetrated only the paint layers while the supporting canvas remains intact. Gallery conservators have removed the painting from display and will now decide upon the best method of preserving the work.

Known as ‘The Morning Walk’, the painting depicts a wealthy young couple in fashionable attire walking through a wooded landscape. Gainsborough was considered the leading portrait painter in late 18th century England and the work, which was painted shortly before the Halletts were married, is characteristic of his late style.

The painting was bought by the National Gallery for £30,000 from Lord Rothschild in 1954. It was acquired for the nation with the assistance of a £5,000 grant from the Art Fund. James Bond fans might recognise the work from its cameo appearance in the 2012 film ‘Skyfall’. The painting can be seen behind James Bond and Q during their meeting in the National Gallery.