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The Link Between Women's Suffrage and Climate Activists Targeting 'The Rokeby Venus'

Climate Activists Smash Glass Protecting 'The Rokeby Venus' Painting
Kristian Buus/In Pictures via Getty Images

Climate change protesters targeted "The Rokeby Venus" in homage to a 1914 Women's Suffrage protest which also damaged the painting.

Two climate change protesters were arrested Monday after smashing the protective glass panel covering one of Diego Velázquez’s famous oil paintings at London’s National Gallery.

The two activists, who are from the group Just Stop Oil, used small hammers to puncture several holes in Velázquez’s “The Toilet of Venus,” also known as “The Rokeby Venus,” photos showed.

“The Toilet of Venus” depicts a nude Venus, the goddess of love, laying on bad with her back to the viewer while facing her son Cupid who hold a mirror up to her face.

The rich and their pollution

This isn’t the first time that Just Stop Oil has led a protest targeting famous artworks and public buildings. Last year two activists threw cans of tomato soup on Vincent van Gogh’s “Sunflowers,” which is also at the National Gallery in order to protest fossil fuel extraction. The painting was not damaged as it was covered with glass.

The group posted a video of the incident on X, formerly known as Twitter, and stated, “ Our government have revealed plans for MORE oil licenses, knowing it will kill millions. In response, two supporters of Just Stop Oil smashed the Rokeby Venus — slashed by Mary Richardson in 1914.”

As stated in the tweet, the two activists chose the 17-century oil painting as it has been previously slashed as part of the suffragette movement calling for women’s rights in 1914.

“Women did not get the vote by voting. It is time for deeds, not words,” the video shows the protesters telling people in the museum after hammering the glass panel. “Politics is failing us. It failed women in 1914 and it is failing us now.”

The painting was previously targeted in 1914 by suffragette Mary Richardon who slashed the painting several times in protest of the imprisonment of fellow women’s rights activist Emmeline Pankhurst. The painting was repaired following the protest.

The National Gallery posted on X about the incident and said that the painting has since been removed from the display so it can be examined by conservators.

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Kylie Werner