Two Just Stop Oil protesters have smashed the glass covering a painting on display at the National Gallery.

The protesters used safety hammers to break the glass protecting the Rokeby Venus painting at the museum in central London on Monday.

The Metropolitan Police said activists had been arrested on suspicion of criminal damage.

The artwork, which was painted by Diego Velazquez in the 1600s, was previously slashed by suffragette Mary Richardson in March 1914.

Just Stop Oil named the pair as Hanan, 22, and Harrison, 20, and said their actions were to demand the Government immediately halts all new oil and gas projects in the UK.

Following the incident, they said: “Women did not get the vote by voting; it is time for deeds not words. It is time to Just Stop Oil.

“Politics is failing us. It failed women in 1914 and it is failing us now.

“New oil and gas will kill millions. If we love art, if we love life, if we love our families, we must Just Stop Oil.”

A larger group of Just Stop Oil protesters also obstructed traffic near Downing Street on Monday and were arrested and placed on and around the Cenotaph by police.

One officer told the PA news agency the protesters had been moved to the site “to get them off the road”, adding: “It was for their own safety – obviously it’s quite a busy road.”

The Met said they arrested at least 40 activists who were slow-marching in Whitehall under Section 7 of the Public Order Act.

A series of Just Stop Oil protests have taken place in recent days, including last Wednesday when more than 20 people were charged after blocking Earls Court Road.