UK climate activists target 'Rokeby Venus' painting
06 November 2023
London (AFP) -
Climate protesters on Monday smashed the glass cover of the 'Rokeby Venus' painting by Spanish artist Diego Velazquez at London's National Portrait Gallery, in the latest protest against fossil fuels.
Two Just Stop Oil protesters in their twenties attacked the painting that suffragette Mary Richardson slashed in 1914, the group said in a statement.
'At around 10:45 am (1045 GMT) Hanan, 22, and Harrison, 20, used safety hammers to smash the glass covering the Rokeby Venus,' said the group, which is demanding a halt to all new oil and gas projects in the UK.
'They then addressed the gallery by saying: 'Women did not get the vote by voting; it is time for deeds not words. It is time to Just Stop Oil'.'
The Metropolitan Police confirmed on X (formerly Twitter) that two Just Stop Oil activists had been arrested for criminal damage.
'The glass protecting a painting at the National Gallery has been vandalised,' it said, adding that more activists were slow marching on Whitehall, the road that hosts many UK government buildings.
Hanan, a student from London, said: 'Over 100 years ago, the suffragette Mary Richardson attacked the Rokeby Venus portrait for the unjust imprisonment of Emmeline Pankhurst. Today I have used similar methods in the fight for climate justice.'
The gallery said the pair 'appeared to strike' the glass protecting the painting with 'what appeared to be emergency rescue hammers' and that the room was cleared of visitors.
'The painting is now being removed from display so it can be examined by conservators,' it added.
The Rokeby Venus was completed between 1647 and 1651 and depicts the goddess Venus lying on a bed gazing into a mirror held up by her son Cupid.
In 1914, in a protest against the imprisonment of fellow suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst, Richardson left seven slashes on the painting, though all were successfully repaired.
Just Stop Oil protesters have conducted regular protests around the UK, blocking traffic and disrupting sporting and cultural events.
They have also targeted the National Gallery before.
Last year protesters glued their hands to the frame of the painting 'The Hay Wain' by English artist John Constable.