Eco-Activists Arrested for Vandalizing Priceless Rokeby Venus Painting at National Gallery

Eco-Activists Arrested for Vandalizing Priceless Rokeby Venus Painting at National Gallery

Two members of the environmental activist group “Just Stop Oil” have been arrested after vandalizing the protective glass covering the renowned Rokeby Venus painting at the National Gallery.

The incident has sparked outrage and concerns about the security of priceless artworks.

The Shocking Act of Vandalism

The activists filmed themselves smashing the protective glass that shields the 17th-century Rokeby Venus, a masterpiece by Spanish artist Diego Velazquez. In the video, they can be seen using hammers to repeatedly strike blows at the glass.

While committing the act, they shouted, “It is time for deeds, not words,” and referenced the suffrage movement, stating, “Women did not get the vote by voting; it is time for deeds, not words. It is time to Just Stop Oil.”

This painting had previously suffered an attack when Canadian suffragette Mary Richardson slashed it with a butcher’s knife more than a century ago in 1914.

Arrest and Damage to the Painting

Metropolitan Police swiftly intervened and arrested the activists, identified as Hanan, 22, and Harrison, 20, on suspicion of criminal damage.

The gallery reported that the assailants appeared to be using emergency rescue hammers to damage the glass.

Following the incident, the room was evacuated, and the painting was removed from display for examination by conservators.

Concerns Over Security

The vandalism has raised concerns about security at the National Gallery. The incident highlights the need for enhanced measures to protect invaluable artworks from acts of vandalism or destruction.

History of the Rokeby Venus

The Rokeby Venus, painted by Diego Velázquez between 1647 and 1651, is known for its depiction of the goddess Venus lying on a bed and gazing into a mirror held by her son Cupid.

Notably, her reflection in the mirror remains blurred, adding to the painting’s allure and making it a symbol of female beauty.

The painting’s nickname, “The Rokeby Venus,” is derived from Rokeby Park, where it was housed in the 19th century before being moved to the National Gallery in 1906.

This masterpiece gained worldwide attention in 1914 when suffragette Mary Richardson slashed it in protest against the imprisonment of Emmeline Pankhurst.

Activists’ Targeting of Artworks

The activist group “Just Stop Oil” had previously warned of their intention to target famous artworks as a means to escalate their protests.

In the past, they have vandalized numerous artworks, and the incident at the National Gallery raises concerns about the security of other renowned pieces of art.

Protests Near the Cenotaph

Following the incident at the National Gallery, the activists from “Just Stop Oil” staged a protest near the Cenotaph in Whitehall.

Their actions led to at least 40 arrests as they lay next to the sacred war memorial. The protest has sparked fears of clashes as a major pro-Palestine demonstration is planned for Armistice Day.

The incident at the National Gallery underscores the ongoing challenges of safeguarding valuable artworks from vandalism and raises questions about the measures that institutions need to take to ensure the security of their collections.

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