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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Hermitage Unveils Restored Rembrandt

ST. PETERSBURG -- Rembrandt's masterpiece "Danae," badly disfigured 12 years ago when a man slashed its canvas and hurled acid over it, is back on display after being carefully restored by Russian experts.

But the restored painting, housed in the world-renowned Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, falls well short of the original, the museum's director conceded.

"I would like to emphasize that the 'Danae' that was is no more. This is another 'Danae,'" Mikhail Piotrovsky said at a news conference at the Hermitage.

"But thanks to the labors and ability of the restorers, the spirit that Rembrandt wanted to convey to viewers has been preserved," he said.

"What we have is disfigured, but yet preserved, beauty," he said.

A middle-aged Lithuanian man pulled out a knife and slashed the stomach and thigh of the recumbent nude woman, Danae, depicted in the painting, on June 15, 1985.

He then hurled a jar of acid at the picture, splashing a nearby militiaman in the face.

The museum guards quickly overpowered the man, who was also found to have explosives strapped to his legs under his pants.

More than one-fourth of the painting was damaged in the attack.

The restorers said they had believed at first it would be impossible to save the painting.

"The picture was covered with a brown, quivering mass, giving out a pungent smell and slowly oozing down onto the floor," said restorer Tatyana Aleshina.

Immediately after the attack, the picture was rinsed with water and left to dry.

"It was a terrible sight. ... The changes being wrought in the picture [by the acid] were the most terrible tragedy," said restorer Vitaly Suslov, who saw the painting shortly after the attack.

He said the attacker had asked visitors to the museum which was the most valuable painting, and they had pointed to the "Danae."

"He was hidden from the view of the security guards by a group of foreigners and he took advantage of this," Suslov said.

The painting went on full public display Tuesday in an exhibition titled "Danae -- The Fate of Rembrandt's Chef-d'Oeuvre."

The painting is displayed behind bulletproof glass, NTV television said.

Catherine the Great bought the painting in Paris in 1772.