Exactly one hundred years ago, on 10 March 1914, a suffragette slashed Diego Velázquez’s Rokeby Venus with a meat cleaver at the National Gallery in London. The canvas was fully restored at a later time.
Mary Raleigh Richardson was this suffragette.
Richardson was reported of saying the following in The Times on 11 March 1914: “I have tried to destroy the picture of the most beautiful woman in mythological history [Venus] as a protest against the Government for destroying Mrs Pankhurst, who is the most beautiful character in modern history. Justice is an element of beauty as much as colour and outline on canvas. Mrs Pankhurst seeks to procure justice for womanhood, and for this she is being slowly murdered by a Government of Iscariot politicians. If there is an outcry against my deed, let every one remember that such an outcry is an hypocrisy so long as they allow the destruction of Mrs Pankhurst and other beautiful living women, and that until the public cease to countenance human destruction the stones cast against me for the destruction of this picture are each an evidence against them of artistic as well as moral and political humbug and hypocrisy.”
Richardson, who was arrested nine times and received prison terms for over three years, committed numerous acts of violence and arson. She smashed windows of the Home Office in the United Kingdom. She even bombed a railway station.
Richardson was dedicated to the rights of women. Richardson’s fight for women’s suffrage changed history.