Climate Activists Stage Protest in Front of Botticelli’s ‘Birth of Venus’

Two men taped images of flooding in Tuscany to the Renaissance painting’s protective glass

Protesters in front of painting
Protesters with the activist group Last Generation stand in front of Sandro Botticelli's The Birth of Venus at Florence's Uffizi Gallery on February 13.  Laura Lezza / Getty Images

On Tuesday evening, two climate protesters affiliated with the activist organization Ultima Generazione (“Last Generation”) staged a demonstration in front of Sandro Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy.

Rather than throwing soup or smearing paint, the duo taped photos of last year’s catastrophic flooding in Tuscany onto the painting’s protective glass and unfurled a banner that read “Fondo Riparazione” (“Repair Fund”), according to Time’s Mallory Moench.

“We ask the government to take concrete action to support communities affected by climate disasters,” wrote Last Generation in a translated post on X (formerly Twitter). “They can censor us, but they cannot censor reality.”

In another X post, the group identified one of the two men now risking a jail sentence as a 40-year-old father named Giordano.

Italian police immediately took Giordano and the other protester in for questioning, reports the Associated Press (AP). Gallery officials successfully peeled the images off the glass, and the room reopened to the public after roughly 15 minutes. The gallery tells Time that the Renaissance painting and protective glass suffered “absolutely no damage.”

Last Generation is demanding a permanent emergency repair fund of €20 billion (roughly $21.5 billion) to support victims of climate disasters, per a translated page on the group’s website.

“We want everyone who see their streets, their homes, their crops devastated by floods, hailstorms, unseasonal frosts and anomalous droughts to be repaid for what they lost immediately,” writes the organization. “We want this money to always be present and ready for use.” The group thinks the money for this fund should be redirected from military expenses, the salaries of politicians and managers of state-owned energy-intensive industries and public subsidies to (and extra profits) from the fossil fuel industry.

Last Generation started staging protests in 2022. Since then, protesters affiliated with the group have poured diluted charcoal into Rome’s Trevi Fountain and spilled mud and chocolate milk onto Venice’s St. Mark’s Basilica, among other incidents. In recent years, other activist groups have been organizing similar demonstrations all over the world.

Italy’s reaction to these protests has been “firm,” writes Artlyst. According to Agence France-Presse (AFP), the country’s parliament approved a law in January that increased penalties for causing damage to monuments and cultural sites. Protesters can now receive up to six months of jail time.

What—if anything—the activists have been charged with is still unclear, reports Artnet’s Adam Schrader.

“The government continues to pretend that fields did not burn in January, that water will not be a problem this summer, that houses destroyed by floods are accidental events and not caused by human choices,” said Giordano, per AFP. “And instead of dealing with these real problems, it makes absurd laws.”

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