Andrew Shannon (48) is accused of putting his hand through Ireland's only painting by the famous French impressionist, entitled Argenteuil Basin with a Single Sailboat.
Mr Shannon, with an address at Willans Way, Ongar, Dublin 15, told two tourists who witnessed the incident that he had “felt faint” and collapsed onto the painting.
He pleaded not guilty to causing criminal damage to the painting at the National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin on June 29, 2012. The court heard that Mr Shannon worked as a French polisher with Foyle Antiques, which has now closed.
Kerida Naidoo BL, prosecuting, told the jury, that Mr Shannon was captured on CCTV footage entering and leaving the room in the Millennium Unit of the National Gallery where the painting was hanging.
He said the two eye-witnesses who had been holidaying in Ireland at the time have travelled from New Zealand to give evidence.
In his opening speech, 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 on the scene decided Mr Shannon's condition was not a cause for concern.
Brendan Grehan SC, 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 different doctors over the course of 12 hours in custody.
The trial continues tomorrow before Judge Desmond Hogan and a jury of seven women and five men. It is expected to last five days.