Activists from the Just Stop Oil environmental movement, opposed to fossil fuels, broke the protective glass of a Velázquez painting at the National Gallery in London on Monday, which had already been vandalized in the last century by a suffragette. The two activists, aged 20 and 22, entered around 10:45 a.m. and hit with a hammer the protection of the Venus in the Mirror, a painting known in the United Kingdom as the Rokeby Venus, the organization said in a press release. .
The latter, known for its punchy actions, calls for an immediate halt to new oil and gas projects in the United Kingdom. The Diego Velázquez painting in question, which dates from the mid-17th century, is considered the only remaining nude by the Spanish painter. In 1914, he was slashed with a cleaver by Canadian suffragette Mary Richardson. She was protesting against the imprisonment of another activist for women's suffrage in the United Kingdom.
“Women were not given the right to vote through the ballot box. The time is no longer for words but for actions,” declared the activists after their action, according to Just Stop Oil. The National Gallery confirmed the action, saying it had evacuated visitors from the room and called the police, while the painting was removed for examination by museum curators. London police said they arrested the two activists for damage.
Last year, Just Stop Oil activists had already targeted the National Gallery, where they threw tomato soup on Van Gogh's Sunflowers, and the Mauritshuis museum in The Hague where they stuck to the window of The Girl with a Pearl Earring, by Vermeer. In both cases, the paintings were protected by glass and had not suffered damage. The organization most often attacks motorists by blocking traffic and has attracted the hostility of the British Conservative government which has toughened legislation to prevent their actions.
This new action comes as the executive has decided to award new hydrocarbon exploration and drilling licenses in the North Sea, which has led to it being accused of going back on its climate commitments. In the name of energy security, he announced on Monday that he wanted to enshrine in law the examination of potential new licenses every year.