The Toilet of Venus, also known as “The Rokeby Venus”, by Diego Velázquez, was attacked at London's National Gallery today. The painting, created between 1647 and 1651, is one of the most celebrated masterpieces in the gallery’s collection, and was presented to the institution by the National Art Collections Fund (now the Art Fund) in 1906 after the charity ran a highly publicised fund-raising campaign to acquire the painting and prevent it from being sold abroad.
The work, which depicts the Roman goddess Venus lying with her back facing the viewer, was targeted by two members of the climate activist group Just Stop Oil. The surface of the painting, the gallery has confirmed, sustained minimal damage. There is no timeline on when the painting will be viewable by the public again.
The group shared footage of the attack on their account on X, formerly known as Twitter, and say they are trying to protest against the awarding of new oil and gas licenses in the UK.
The painting was famously attacked by the suffragette Mary Richardson on 10 March 1914, leaving seven deep gashes on the canvas, and was subsequently fully restored.
A spokesperson for the National Gallery said today in a statement: “At just before 11am this morning [6 November 2023] two people entered Room 30 of the National Gallery.
“The pair appeared to strike The Toilet of Venus (“The Rokeby Venus”) (1647-1651) by Velázquez with what appeared to be emergency rescue hammers.”
They added: “The room was cleared of visitors and police were called. Officers are now on the scene. Two people have been arrested.
“The painting is now being removed from display so it can be examined by conservators.
"Minimal damage has been sustained to the surface of the painting; therefore, it will be undergoing conservation treatment before going back on display. There is no timeline yet on when that will be.
"Room 30 was reopened just after 12.30pm with A Dead Soldier, Italian (17thcentury) replacing The Toilet of Venus."