Moment Just Stop Oil eco zealots smash protective glass of Rokeby Venus oil painting as they emulate Suffragette stunt at the National Gallery
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Two Just Stop Oil eco-zealots have been arrested after smashing the protective glass on the Rokeby Venus painting at the National Gallery.

The activists sparked fury when a video was uploaded showing them hammering the glass of the priceless oil painting, shouting ‘it is time for deeds not words’.

The 17th-century painting, by Spanish artist Diego Velazquez, is the same artwork slashed by Canadian suffragette Mary Richardson with a butcher’s knife more than 100 years ago. 

In the footage, the protesters repeatedly strike blows down on the painting’s protective glass with hammers after hopping over the barrier.

Referencing the women’s suffrage movement, they then shout: ‘Women did not get the vote by voting; it is time for deeds not words. It is time to Just Stop Oil.’

The protesters struck the painting around 11am this morning using what the gallery has described as 'emergency rescue hammers', the gallery says

The protesters struck the painting around 11am this morning using what the gallery has described as ’emergency rescue hammers’, the gallery says

Just Stop Oil eco-zealots Hanan and Harrison allegedly smashed the protective glass on a Rokeby Venus oil painting worth an estimated £72.5million at the National Gallery today

Just Stop Oil eco-zealots Hanan and Harrison allegedly smashed the protective glass on a Rokeby Venus oil painting worth an estimated £72.5million at the National Gallery today

The male activist added: ‘Politics is failing us. Politics failed women in 1914. If millions will die due to new oil and gas licences, millions.

‘If we love history, if we love art, and if we love our families we must Just Stop Oil.’

Met Police swooped in on the National Gallery and arrested the activists, identified by Just Stop Oil as Hanan, 22, and Harrison, 20, on suspicion of criminal damage. 

‘The glass protecting a painting at the National Gallery has been vandalised,’ the force said, adding that more activists were slow marching on Whitehall, the road that hosts many UK government buildings.

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 incident has raised concerns over security at the National Gallery.

Hanan and Harrison, the activists accused of vandalising the painting, have been arrested on suspicion of causing criminal damage

Hanan and Harrison, the activists accused of vandalising the painting, have been arrested on suspicion of causing criminal damage

The pair claim today's demonstration came in response to the Government having revealed plans for more oil licenses

The pair claim today’s demonstration came in response to the Government having revealed plans for more oil licenses

History behind the 17th-century masterpiece  Rokeby Venus – hailed for depicting the ‘personification of female beauty’

The Rokeby Venus was painted by Diego Velázquez, often hailed the leading artist of the Spanish Golden Age, between 1647 and 1651, known as the ‘Siglo de Oro’.

Hung in London’s National Gallery, the oil painting depicts the goddess Venus lying in the nude on a bed gazing at her reflection in a mirror held up by her son, Cupid.

Although her naked body is on display, Venus’ reflection in the mirror is blurred so her identity remains a mystery. This detail enables her to act as the personification of female beauty, requiring the viewer to imagine her features.

It is Velázquez’s only surviving female nude.

Its nickname, The Rokeby Venus, originates from Rokeby Park, a country house in County Durham, where the painting hung for much of the 19th century before being moved to the National Gallery in 1906.

It became world famous in 1914, when Canadian Suffragette Mary Richardson – a convicted arsonist known for her hardline tactics – slashed the painting in protest over the imprisonment of Emmeline Pankhurst.

On March 10, she entered the National Gallery, hiding a butcher’s knife in her sleeve, and vandalised the painting in a bid to ‘destroy the picture of the most beautiful woman in mythological history’.

All the slashes of the priceless masterpiece were successfully repaired.

Ms Richardson’s protest was an attempt to raise awareness about the years of arrest, torture, force-feeding and hunger strikes suffragettes allegedly faced.

She was reportedly protesting ‘against the Government for destroying Mrs Pankhurst’ whom she hailed as ‘most beautiful character in modern history’.

Ms Richardson said at the time: ‘Justice is an element of beauty as much as colour and outline on canvas.’

She received a six-month jail sentence during which she went on hunger strike and was released just a few weeks after. 

National Gallery refused to comment when asked about the painting’s value. 

The artwork, which was painted by Diego Velazquez in the 1600s, was on display in Room 30 of the National Gallery when the pair vandalised it.

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.

The painting was previously slashed by suffragette Mary Richardson in March 1914. 

In a protest against the imprisonment of fellow suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst, Ms Richardson left seven slashes on the painting, though all were successfully repaired.

Last year, Just Stop Oil warned it would target famous artworks in a bid to ‘escalate’ their protests.

Activist Alex De Koning told Sky News it was planning on following in the footsteps of the Suffragettes who ‘violently slashed paintings in order to get their messages across’.

They have also vandalised numerous famous artworks and even targeted the National Gallery before. 

Later on Monday, Just Stop Oil sparked further fury when they marched towards the Cenotaph in the centre of Whitehall.

The eco-mob were pictured lying next to the sacred war memorial as Metropolitan Police officers arrested at least 40 of the zealots during the slow march stunt.

A larger group of Just Stop Oil protesters obstructed traffic near Downing Street and were arrested and placed on and around the Cenotaph by police.

One officer said the protesters had been moved to the site ‘to get them off the road’, adding: ‘It was for their own safety – obviously it’s quite a busy road.’

Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, that ‘targeting the Cenotaph is totally unacceptable’. She added: ‘Full support for the police in taking necessary enforcement action.’

The latest stunt is set to spark fears of clashes at the weekend, when a major pro-Palestine protest is planned for Armistice Day.

Last year protesters glued their hands to the frame of the painting ‘The Hay Wain’ by English artist John Constable, while in October last year, protesters Phoebe Plummer and Anna Holland were arrested for criminal damage and aggravated trespass after they threw Heinz tomato soup at Van Gogh’s Sunflowers in the National Gallery.

Police said the £76million piece of art was ‘unharmed’ but some minor damage was caused to the frame.

Similarly, the group’s activists glued themselves to the frame of a copy of Leonardo Da Vinci’s ‘The Last Supper’ at the Royal Academy in London July 2022 as part of a protest.

Simon Bramwell, 50, Caspar Hughes, 51, Jessica Agar, 22, Lucy Porter, 47 and Tristan Strange, 40, took part in the protest during which ‘No New Oil’ was sprayed under the £3.6million painting. 

JSO activists also led a slow march through Whitehall

JSO activists also led a slow march through Whitehall 

Just Stop Oil marched towards Westminster today after a series of JSO protests in recent days

Just Stop Oil marched towards Westminster today after a series of JSO protests in recent days

Met Police are understood to be arresting some protesters under Section Seven of the Public Order Act. Pictured are demonstrators marching towards Westminster today

Met Police are understood to be arresting some protesters under Section Seven of the Public Order Act. Pictured are demonstrators marching towards Westminster today

JSO protesters obstructing traffic near Downing Street today were arrested and placed on and around the Cenotaph by police

JSO protesters obstructing traffic near Downing Street today were arrested and placed on and around the Cenotaph by police

One officer said the protesters had been moved to the site 'to get them off the road'. Pictured are protesters detained by police today

One officer said the protesters had been moved to the site ‘to get them off the road’. Pictured are protesters detained by police today

Officers from the Metropolitan Police stand over Just Stop Oil protesters who have been handcuffed and detained whilst blocking Whitehall

Officers from the Metropolitan Police stand over Just Stop Oil protesters who have been handcuffed and detained whilst blocking Whitehall 

Met Police officers stand over demonstrators who were apparently arrested in London today

Met Police officers stand over demonstrators who were apparently arrested in London today

In October last year, protesters Phoebe Plummer and Anna Holland were arrested for criminal damage and aggravated trespass after they threw Heinz tomato soup at Van Gogh's Sunflowers in the National Gallery

In October last year, protesters Phoebe Plummer and Anna Holland were arrested for criminal damage and aggravated trespass after they threw Heinz tomato soup at Van Gogh’s Sunflowers in the National Gallery

The Just Stop Oil activists glued themselves to the frame of a copy of Leonardo Da Vinci's 'The Last Supper' at the Royal Academy in London July 2022 as part of a protest

The Just Stop Oil activists glued themselves to the frame of a copy of Leonardo Da Vinci’s ‘The Last Supper’ at the Royal Academy in London July 2022 as part of a protest

All five had denied one count of criminal damage totalling £719.40, but they were ordered to each pay £175 in fines – plus £275 in prosecution costs and £36 in compensation – at City of London Magistrates’ Court in February this year.

The painting, which was not damaged, depicts the scene when Jesus announced that one of his 12 apostles would betray him while dining with them before he was crucified. 

District Judge William Nelson told the court during sentencing that the group caused £180 of damage, while leading the venue to close for the day. 

Also last year, two eco-vandals covered John Constable’s painting The Hay Wain with ‘dystopian’ posters and inflicted more than £1,000 worth of repairs.

Hannah Hunt and Eben Lazarus taped printed posters of a 'dystopian version' of the artwork in the National Gallery on July 4, 2022

Hannah Hunt and Eben Lazarus taped printed posters of a ‘dystopian version’ of the artwork in the National Gallery on July 4, 2022 

The pair then glued their hands to its frame

The pair then glued their hands to its frame 

Just Stop Oil supporters Louis McKechnie (left) and Emily Brocklebank (right) were found guilty of causing just less than £2,000 of criminal damage to the frame of a Vincent Van Gogh painting

Just Stop Oil supporters Louis McKechnie (left) and Emily Brocklebank (right) were found guilty of causing just less than £2,000 of criminal damage to the frame of a Vincent Van Gogh painting

Hannah Hunt and Eben Lazarus taped printed posters of a ‘dystopian version’ of the artwork on to the painting before gluing their hands to its frame in the National Gallery on July 4.

The Hay Wain, which was painted in 1821, shows a rural Suffolk scene of a wagon returning to the fields across a shallow ford for another load.

The painting was taken to be restored at the cost of £1,081 and fitted with a glass sheet before it was re-exhibited the next morning. 

Hunt and Lazarus, both of Trowbridge, Wiltshire, were each convicted by a district judge of causing criminal damage.

Emily Brocklebank and Louis McKechnie used super glue to attach themselves to Vincent Van Gogh’s 1889 work Peach Trees In Blossom at the Courtauld Gallery, on the Strand, on June 30 last year. The pair were found guilty of causing just less than £2,000 of criminal damage to the frame

Their lawyer, however, argued that they actually may have ‘increased’ the value of a Van Gogh painting with their stunt.

Francesca Cociani, who defended the pair at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in November last year, argued that it was ‘possible that this very painting has now increased in value because of the protest’.

But a curator at the gallery, Karen Serres, hit back, telling the court: ‘Absolutely not.’ 

Ms Serres said last year she believes the painting cannot be sold.



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