Written by Oscar Holland, CNN
A Dutch court on Wednesday sentenced two Belgian climate activists to prison for protesting Johannes Vermeer’s painting Girl with a Pearl Earring.
The protesters, who are part of the Just Stop Oil Belgium campaign group, were each sentenced to two months in prison, one of which was suspended.
in one widespread video In last week’s incident at the Mauritshuis Museum in The Hague, a man can be seen taped his head to the famous work of art. Another protester, who has yet to be sentenced, then poured a can of tomato soup onto the first man’s shirt before attaching his own hand to a wall bracket. A third person filmed the stunt.
“How do you feel when you see something beautiful and priceless seemingly destroyed before your eyes?” one of the men asked the viewers in English. “Are you upset? Good. Where is that feeling when you see the planet being destroyed before our eyes?”
Police officers stand guard outside the Mauritshuis Museum shortly after the incident on October 27, 2022. Credit: Phil Nijhuisanp/ANP/AFP/Getty Images
Gallery-goers can be heard protesting with shouts of “obscene” and “shame on you.”
“This painting is protected by glass, it’s fine,” the protester continued. “Vulnerable people in the Global South are not protected. The future of our children is not protected.”
The museum said the 17th-century masterpiece was “undamaged” and was reopened to the public the next day. Dutch prosecutors added that the 19th-century frame was damaged during the protest.
In a press release announcing the verdict, prosecutors said they wanted to “send a signal” to activists, adding: “An artwork that’s hanging there for everyone, all of us, to enjoy was made by (defendants) smeared, who felt their message took precedence over everything else.”
Prosecutors originally requested four months, two of which were suspended, but the judge said she didn’t want her sentence to discourage other people from demonstrating, according to Portal.
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The two men went to court through an accelerated verdict of destruction and open violence against the painting. The third activist who disagreed with the speeding up of the process will appear in court on Friday. Prosecutors said all three were “jointly responsible” for the crime, Portal said.
The ruling follows a series of anti-fossil fuel demonstrations targeting art galleries, car dealerships and corporate headquarters in recent weeks. Last month, two protesters threw mashed potatoes at Claude Monet’s “Haystack” painting at the Museum Barberini in Potsdam. Two Just Stop Oil protesters have meanwhile been charged with criminal assault in the UK after they threw tomato soup at Vincent van Gogh’s Sunflowers.
In response to Wednesday’s court ruling, Just Stop Oil Belgium, which is not affiliated with its British namesake, told Portal by email: “Isn’t it ironic that climate activists who are non-violently opposing the mass murder of life on Earth to be judged?”
Additional coverage from Portal.
Picture above: Visitors look at Johannes Vermeer’s painting “Girl with a Pearl Earring” in the Mauritshuis Museum in The Hague.