Andrew Shannon, 48, is accused of putting his hand through Argenteuil Basin with a Single Sailboat, Ireland’s only painting by the French impressionist. The painting dates from 1874 and is valued at about €10m.
Mr Shannon of Willans Way, Ongar, Dublin 15, told two tourists who witnessed the incident he had “felt faint” and collapsed onto the painting.
He pleaded not guilty to causing criminal damage to the painting at the National Gallery on Jun 29, 2012.
The court heard that Mr Shannon worked as a French polisher with Foyle Antiques, which has now closed.
Kerida Naidoo, prosecuting, told the jury that Mr Shannon was captured on CCTV entering and leaving the room where the work was hanging. He said the two witnesses, who had been on holiday at the time, have travelled from New Zealand to give evidence.
Mr Naidoo said the incident happened at about 11am, and that gardaí and an ambulance arrived within 15 minutes. He said Mr Shannon had told a number of people, including the two tourists, that he had fallen or in some way collapsed against the painting.
He said the jury will hear that Mr Shannon’s pulse was taken, he was given oxygen and was described as having a “sweaty forehead”.
However, after a short while, the medics decided Mr Shannon’s condition was not a cause for concern.
Brendan Grehan, defending, said Mr Shannon accepts that the damage to the painting was caused by his hand coming into contact with it. He said his client has a history of heart problems, and was taken to hospital by ambulance after the incident.
Mr Shannon was then driven to a garda station where he was seen by three doctors over the course of 12 hours in custody.
He was brought back to hospital a second time the following morning.
The trial continues.