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Climate activists smash glass protecting Velazquez’s Venus painting in London’s National Gallery

The group Just Stop Oil chose to target the 17th-century oil painting because it was previously slashed as part of the suffragette movement calling for women’s rights in 1914

Just Stop Oil: Venus at Her Mirror, from Diego Velaquez, in the National Gallery
Two climate change protesters smashed a protective glass panel covering a famous Diego Velázquez oil painting at London's National Gallery, November 6, 2023.KINOKAST (JUST STOP OIL /EFE)

Two climate change protesters smashed a protective glass panel covering a famous Diego Velázquez oil painting at London’s National Gallery, the group Just Stop Oil said Monday. The two activists targeted Velázquez’s “The Toilet of Venus,” also known as “The Rokeby Venus,” with small hammers. Photos showed the protective glass panel punctured with several holes.

Just Stop Oil, which has previously led similar protests targeting famous artworks and public buildings, said Monday’s action was to demand Britain’s government immediately halt all licensing for the exploration, development and production of fossil fuels in the U.K.

The group said the two activists chose to target the 17th-century oil painting because it was previously slashed as part of the suffragette movement calling for women’s rights in 1914.

Just Stop Oil said the protesters hammered the glass panel, then told people at the gallery: “Women did not get the vote by voting. It is time for deeds, not words.” “Politics is failing us. It failed women in 1914 and it is failing us now,” they added.

The National Gallery said two people were arrested and the painting has been removed from display so conservators can examine it.

“The pair appeared to strike ‘The Toilet of Venus’ (‘The Rokeby Venus’) by Velázquez with what appeared to be emergency rescue hammers. The room was cleared of visitors and police were called,” the museum said in a statement.

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