In what fine art experts are calling "a disaster of almost unprecedented proportion", one of the few genuine and authenticated* portraits of Professor Brian Thrupiece was damaged by an unknown hand during a deep clean of the Threadbone Corporation's Great Heaving headquarters. The catastrophe is said to have occurred at about 3.36pm yesterday during post-CONTRIK-69, post-lockdown, interim-pre-post-working-from-home preparations. Sources close to the Royal Dorset Constabulary confirmed to the Sydling St Nicholas Sun that no complaint had yet been lodged and that, in consequence, no one had been charged with serious criminal damage. They refused, however, to rule out the possibility that Chief Constable Sir Rising Crimewave might not intervene personally to ensure that the perpetrator of the "Crime of the Century" did not go unpunished.
* "genuine" and "authenticated" should not, in this context, be taken to be absolute terms. Few [ie "no"] representations of Professor Thrupiece are undisputed and several quite different images of him have been regarded as "plausible likenesses" at different times. See Morph O'Metrics: The Changing Face of Professor Thrupiece: Authenticity, Relativism and the Iconoclastic Cadastre", Dorset Journal of Semiotics, Vol XXXVIII 2007.
No official statement has been issued by the Threadbone Corporation, fuelling speculation that damage to the portrait - which hangs in pride of place in the state-of-the-art HQ Foyer next to Mrs Amanda J Threadbone's riding crop** - might have been "an inside job". Deep cleaning authority Mr Jay Cloth believes that the most likely cause is that the picture was dropped during a dusting/wiping-based operation or, less probably, that it was inadvertently "nudged off its hook" by someone distempering the walls. Senior Fixtures and Fittings consultant Mr Rawle Plugge, however, believes the latter scenario to be 'unlikely and unrealistic", given that a portrait of such importance would be properly secured using quite possibly 'armour-penetrating bolts, industrial wires and - as additional security - military grade blutak/velcro".
** described by the late Mr Threadbone as "a weapon of some power" the crop was retired in 2007 following Mr Threadbone's demise in a mini-tractor accident resulting from poorly tightened nuts. No blame for the "accident" has been officially apportioned to any single person, though Mrs Threadbone herself is said to "have her theories" [Ed].
That said, the picture [no pun intended [Ed]] was further clouded last night when an off--duty receptionist hinted that the pattern of damage to the portrait's protective glass was suggestive of the impact of a bullet or possibly an armour-piercing shell. Security expert Ivor Keye told professorthrupiece.com that measures in place to protect such a valuable asset would probably indicate the latter. "There is no question that such a rare example of an authentic Professor Thrupiece portrait***, would be housed in a non-tamper frame beneath bullet-proof glass" - a statement which will rightly bring a chill to all of those investigating the incident. Few criminal organisations - outside the secret services and local government - would have the resources to pull off such a feat, whilst the likelihood of the damage being sustained by accident is, Mr Keye believes, "statistically close to zero".
*** see above [Ed]
The portrait itself has been removed to an undisclosed location for further forensic analysis and possible restoration. It is believed that a genuine van Gogh has been hung temporarily in its place, though Threadbone Corporation Vice-Chair Royston Binstock admitted that few will find the substitution either satisfactory or worthy.