AMSTERDAM — An unemployed man, described by police as confused, sprayed Rembrandt's famous painting "The Night Watch" with an unidentified chemical Friday, but museum officials said damage was minimal.
It was the second attack on the priceless art work in nearly 15 years, and the third this century.
Dutch television said the spray was concentrated sulfuric acid, but museum officials would not confirm the report.
Immediately after the attack, a museum guard applied a neutralizing agent, and the damage to the 1642 masterpiece appeared limited to surface veneer, said Piet van Thiel, the Rijkmuseum's director of paintings.
Museum guards seized the attacker and handed him over to police, according to another museum official. The painting is guarded round-the-clock by an unarmed security company worker.
Police said they did not know what prompted the attack.
Museum spokesman Klaas Wilting said the 31-year-old suspect is a Dutch national from The Hague. The man was not identified by name in line with police policy and is being held on suspicion of vandalism.
"He is confused and not telling us anything at the moment," Wilting said shortly after the attack.
Van Thiel said the painting will be taken to a secret location for restoration but would probably be on display again in about two weeks. He said a new veneer layer would take several months to dry.
He said there were no plans to put the painting, which yearly attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the world, behind a protective shield.
"The Night Watch" measures 12 feet by 14.5 feet and shows a gathering of 17th-Century militiamen. It is considered a prime example of Rembrandt's skilled handling of light and dark.