Eco activists attack 'Girl with a Pearl Earring' at a Dutch museum

Three protesters arrested after one appeared to glue his bald head to the glass covering the painting

The attack took place at the Mauritshuis museum in The Hague. The artwork is said to be undamaged. Photo: Twitter
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Protesters attacked one of the world’s most famous paintings at a Netherlands gallery on Thursday.

Three eco activists were arrested after one protester appeared to glue his bald scalp to the glass covering Girl with a Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeer while another poured a tin of tomatoes over his head.

The attack took place at the Mauritshuis museum in The Hague. The artwork is said to be undamaged.

“How do you feel? How do you feel when you see something beautiful and priceless being apparently destroyed before your eyes?” said one of the Just Stop Oil protesters, in footage of the incident which has been shared online.

“Do you feel outraged? Good. Where is that feeling when you see the planet being destroyed before our very eyes?

“This painting is protected by glass, it's just fine.

“Vulnerable people in the Global South, they are not protected, the future of our children is not protected.

“People in fuel poverty who need to choose between heating or eating are not protected.”

People can be heard to reply “shame” and “obscene” in reply. “Get out of there,” shouted another.

The 17th century painting by Dutch Golden Age artist Vermeer became known by its current title towards the end of the 20th century.

Owing to the girl’s non-European headdress, some art historians believe the work was one of two titled Two Tronies in Turkish Style, from an inventory of the artist’s work done in 1676.

It depicts a woman wearing a blue and gold turban and a pearl earring.

The work is one of the artist’s best known paintings. He produced only 36 works throughout his lifetime.

The painting is what is known as a tronie, a Dutch term for a character or type of person.

“A young woman might have sat for Vermeer, but the painting is not meant to portray her or any specific individual in the same way that Leonardo [da Vinci]’s piece portrayed an existing person,” an entry about the painting on Britannica Online said.

“Vermeer’s subject is a generic young woman in exotic dress, a study in facial expression and costume. The work attests to Vermeer’s technical expertise and interest in representing light.”

The art world has long debated whether the girl in the painting is actually wearing an earring, or whether it is simply reflected light, as close inspection shows the “earring” is not attached to her ear.

The work, which permanently resides in the Mauritshuis museum, inspired a book and a film starring Scarlett Johansson about its origins.

It is the latest in a string of similar incidents by activists. Earlier in October, two climate activists threw a can of tinned soup at Vincent van Gogh’s famous 1888 work Sunflowers at the National Gallery in London.

Updated: October 27, 2022, 2:36 PM
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