Why Protesters Targeted Botticelli’s ‘Birth of Venus’ by Covering It

In the latest high-profile environmental activism stunt, two protesters targeted Sandro Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus painting in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy to call for action to support victims of extreme weather caused by climate change. 

Two activists stuck photographs of the deadly 2023 flooding in Tuscany on the glass covering the painting on Tuesday evening and unfurled a banner that read “Fondo Riparazione,” which translates to “Repair Fund,” according to a video posted on X, formerly Twitter, by the activist group “Ultima Generazione” or “Last Generation.”

“We ask the government to take concrete action to support communities affected by climate disasters,” the group said in its post. 

On its website, the group says it wants a permanent “repair fund” of 20 billion Euros ($21.4 billion)  to help climate disaster victims, obtained by cutting public subsidies and extra profits from fossil fuel industries, military expenses and the salaries of managers of state-owned energy-intensive industries and “the political class.” 

The Associated Press reported that after the protest, authorities cleared the room, removed the pictures and reopened the area within 15 minutes, and police took in the two individuals for questioning.

TIME reached out to the police for further information. Meanwhile, the gallery told TIME in an email that “absolutely no damage” was done to the painting or “the glass protection.”

The activist group said a 40-year-old father from Empoli who engaged in the protest “violated precautionary measures, accepting the risk of ending up in prison.” The action defied a new “eco-vandal” law to impose heftier fines on protesters who damage monuments and culture sites. Culture Minister Gennaro Sangiuliano reportedly hailed the passage of the law in January as a “beautiful day for Italian culture, and in particular for the artistic and architectural heritage of the nation.”

Tuesday’s action is not the group’s first civil disobedience with consequences. Last year, a Vatican court fined and sentenced two protesters who glued themselves to the statue of Laocoön and His Sons in one of the Vatican Museums to nine months in prison, although the sentence was suspended on the agreement they won’t commit crimes in the Vatican for five years. The court also fined another protester for filming. 

The latest act follows two protesters throwing soup onto the Mona Lisa painting in Paris’ Louvre Museum last month to call attention to food insecurity and show solidarity with farmer protests rocking Europe. Both the French and Italian groups are members of a coalition of climate activist organizations across the continent and the U.K. who have upped the ante on public disruptions to put pressure on governments to take action against climate change. 

The stunts have been met with support from activists, skepticism from others questioning the method, and frequent condemnation from police and public officials, including in the U.K. where the government has pushed laws to take action against protesters who “slow march” to block roads.

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