One of the most famous paintings of the Renaissance, Sandro Botticelli’s Primavera, was the centerpiece of a protest by climate activists last week at the Gallerie degli Uffizi in Florence.
On July 22, a man and a woman from the activist group Ultima Generazione glued themselves to the glass protecting the painting with help from a third activist, who unfurled a banner reading “Ultima Generazione No Gas No Carbone (Last Generation, No Gas, No Coal).” All three were removed from the gallery by security, and it is unclear if they will be charged over the incident. According to the gallery, no damage was done to Primavera.
A gallery spokesperson told the Art Newspaper that it took 20 minutes to clean the glass covering the work after the protest: “If there had not been the special protection glass—something that museum management put in place with all major masterpieces a few years ago—then the work would have been badly damaged.”
Ultima Generazione (Last Generation) said in a statement on their website that the protest posed no risk to the painting: “We consulted restorers who advised us to use a glue suitable for glass and frames… In the same way that we defend our artistic heritage, we should be dedicated to the care and protection of the planet that we share with the rest of the world.”
Botticelli’s Primavera, created around 1480, is one of the most recognizable works in Western art history. Its title means “Spring,” and it depicts a lush garden scene populated by Greek mythological figures.
Ultima Generazione said on Instagram that they target the painting given its subject matter. It represents “with a finesse of detail that borders on the encyclopedic – more than 500 botanical species that bloom precisely in the months of spring… This is a reality that we are in danger of losing.”
The protest comes amid a wave of similar interventions at UK art institutions and galleries this month. In a span of two days, climate activists from the group Just Stop Oil glued themselves to Giampietrino’s The Last Supper (ca. 1520) at the at the Royal Academy of Arts and the John Constable painting The Hay Wain (1821) at the National Gallery in London. Works by Vincent Van Gogh, Horatio McCulloch, and J. M. W. Turner have also been targeted.
In a statement released by Just Stop Oil, one of the protestors said that she was taking action because the government “plans to license 40 new UK oil and gas projects in the next few years. This makes them complicit in pushing the world towards an unlivable climate and in the death of billions of people in the coming decades.”