A masterpiece by Claude Monet was attacked by drunken louts in Paris.
The vandals broke into the Orsay Museum in the early hours and tore a hole in The Bridge at Argenteuil - a key work by the French Impressionist.
Painted in 1874, it shows sailboats moored on the Seine west of Paris. The painting suffered a four-inch tear in the middle, caused either by a punch or a blow from a knife. Scroll down for more
French Culture minister Christine Albanel poses next to a painting by the French impressionist Claude Monet which was severely damaged by intruders who broke overnight into the Musee d'Orsay in Paris
Paul Rechter, of the French culture ministry, said: "A group of individuals in a state of some inebriation broke into the Musee d'Orsay.
"They set off the alarm and as they left attacked a picture, causing severe damage."
The incident happened during Paris's so-called White Night, when thousands attend music and cultural events staged late into the night.
"Toward midnight one or several people penetrated into the Musee d'Orsay by forcing a door," said a police spokesman. Scroll down for more...
Torn: A close up view of damage to the Monet masterpiece
"They damaged a picture by Monet and took flight when they triggered the alarm."
The painting, which measures 2ft by 2ft 7ins, is located on the ground floor of the museum. Police have failed to catch the vandals.
Culture minister Christine Albanel deplored what she said was an attack on "our memory, our heritage". Scroll down for more...
The Bridge at Argenteull by Monet was vandalised in Paris
She said, however, that the painting could be restored and that museum security would be tightened.
The Orsay, which opened in 1986 in a former railway station, holds France's largest collection of late 19th and early 20th century art.
The incident there is the latest in a series at French galleries.
A woman is to appear in court tomorrow accused of painting a lipstick kiss on a picture by Cy Twombly, an American artist, in Avignon in July.
In August, an armed gang broke into the fine arts museum in Nice and stole four paintings by Monet, Alfred Sisley and Jan Bruegel.
In February, a performance artist was given a suspended prison term for using a hammer to attack a surrealist work by Marcel Duchamp at the Pompidou Centre in Paris.
Monet was a founder of the 19th century Impressionist movement, using light, movement, unusual angles and ordinary subjects.
The movement owes its name to his 1873 painting, Impression, Sunrise. Nympheas, his longhidden masterpiece, was auctioned for £18.5million in June at Sotheby's in London.
Monet masterpiece slashed by drunks | the Daily Mail