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Climate activists target 'Girl with a Pearl Earring'

October 27, 2022

Dutch police officials arrested three people after a climate activist glued himself and threw what looked like soup over Dutch master Johannes Vermeer's "Girl with a Pearl Earring" painting. The artwork was not damaged.

Visitors take pictures of Johannes Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl Earring (approx. 1665) during a preview for the press of the renovated Mauritshuis in The Hague, Netherlands, June 20, 2014.
Activists revealed themselves to be members of envirionmental activist group Just Stop OilImage: Peter Dejong/AP/picture alliance

Dutch police arrested three people after climate activists targeted Johannes Vermeer's famous painting "Girl with a Pearl Earring" at a museum in The Hague on Thursday.

Social media images showed activists throwing what looked like soup over the painting at the Mauritshuis museum.

One person glued himself to the painting, which was behind glass, and another to the wall next to the masterpiece. A third person threw an unknown substance at the painting.

Police said they made arrests for three people for "public violence against property." Authorities later said those arrested were Belgians, one 42-year-old and two 45-year-olds. "

They remain in custody and are being questioned," The Hague police said.

Painting undamaged, says museum

The museum told local media that the famous painting was undamaged and would be put back on display "as soon as possible."

"Art is defenceless and and we strongly condemn trying to damage it for whichever cause," the Mauritshuis said in a statement to the AFP news agency.

The climate activists also revealed themselves as members of the environmental activist group, Just Stop Oil, with the shirts they wore.

"How do you feel when you see something beautiful and priceless being apparently destroyed before your eyes," one of the activists said in a video circulating on social media. "This painting is protected by glass but the future of our children is not protected."

He went on to say the rage people felt was how it felt seeing the planet being "destroyed before our very eyes."

Latest painting targeted by climate protesters

The incident is the latest in a string of similar occurrences, with climate protesters throwing either soup or food at famous artworks to grab attention and make a statement about the dangers of climate change. 

Climate activists from Just Stop Oil threw soup at Vincent van Gogh's "Sunflowers" at London's National Gallery some two weeks ago and activists in Germany threw mashed potatoes two days ago at a Claude Monet painting in Potsdam, a city near Berlin, to protest fossil fuel production.

Both paintings, as with Vermeer's painting, were enclosed behind protective glass shielding and weren't damaged.

Climate activists in Europe have been gluing themselves to famous paintings through the summer to lodge their protest against new gas and oil extraction projects. 

The protests have ramped up as world leaders prepare to gather in Egypt for the United Nation's annual climate conference next month.

rm/sms (Reuters, AFP)