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Activists cling to a copy of Leonardo’s ‘The Last Supper’, adding to a series of similar protests

Written by Jacqui Palumbo, CNN

A group of climate activists who disrupted major galleries this week to send a message to the UK government have struck again — this time at the Royal Academy of Art in London.

On Tuesday morning, Just Stop Oil (JSO) protesters clung to a frame housing a copy of Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘The Last Supper’ believed to have been painted by two students of the Italian Renaissance master. Activists also spray-painted the “No New Oil” demand in white under the painting, a spokesperson for the gallery confirmed to CNN.

Leonardo originally created ‘The Last Supper’, which depicts the moment when Jesus tells his 12 disciples that he will be betrayed by one of them, in the form of a fresco in the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie of Milan between 1495 and 1497. The copy of the painting in the possession of the demonstrators, attributed to Giampietrino and Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio, was painted about 15 years later.

Just Stop Oil protesters are calling on the UK government to block licenses for future oil and gas extraction and warning of a bleak future if action is not taken to slow the effects of climate change.

Climate protesters glued themselves to a copy of Leonardo da Vinci's famous painting.

Climate protesters glued themselves to a copy of Leonardo da Vinci’s famous painting. Credit: James Manning/PA Images/Getty Images

According to The Independent, a protester at the gallery compared the government to Jesus’ betrayer, Judas, and said Just Stop Oil selected this “magnificent beautiful painting” because the future is “darker than ever”.

Four demonstrators spent more than three hours in the room where the painting is, closed to the public because of the demonstration, before being evacuated by the police, according to the gallery. The spokesperson added that the condition of the painting was being assessed by Royal Academy restorers.

The protest is the fifth time the band members have tied themselves to a famous piece of art in their series of protests over the past week. Previous incidents involved a work by Vincent Van Gogh at the Courtauld Gallery in London and a painting by JMW Turner at the Manchester Art Gallery. Just Stop Oil also disrupted the British Formula 1 Grand Prix by sitting out the Silverstone Circuit on Sunday.

CNN reported that the most recent protest took place at the National Gallery in London on Monday, where activists covered John Constable’s famous landscape painting “The Hay Wain” with an edited version of the image before pasting their hands on the frame. Their take on the painting, which depicts a rural Suffolk scene, replaced a river with a cobbled road and included factory smokestacks and airplanes overhead. The group warned that the natural beauty of some of the landscapes they chose is under serious threat due to climate change.
The group modified a painting by John Constable on Monday before attaching to the frame.  JSO stuck to the frames of five tables last week.

The group modified a painting by John Constable on Monday before attaching to the frame. JSO stuck to the frames of five tables last week. Credit: Kirsty O’Connor/PA Images/Reuters

Just Stop Oil identified the protesters at the National Gallery as students Hannah Hunt and Eben Lazarus. London’s Metropolitan Police previously confirmed to CNN that two people were arrested on suspicion of criminal damage and later released on bail pending further investigation.

After the latest protest at the Royal Academy of Art, Just Stop Oil issued a statement identifying some of the protesters. Lucy Porter, a 47-year-old former teacher, said: “We’ve run out of time, to say we’re doing it is a lie. We need to stop all new oil and gas now, we’ll stop disrupting arts institutions as soon as that the government makes a meaningful statement to do so. Until then, the disruption will continue so that young people know that we are doing everything we can for them. There is nothing I would rather do.

Another member, Jessica Agar, a 21-year-old art student, made an additional request for arts institutions to join their cause.

“If the directors of this gallery truly believe that art has the power to change the world, then I demand that they claim that power, close and refuse to open until the government commits not to not use new oil,” she said.

The Royal Academy of Art has not commented on Hagar’s request to close the gallery.

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