Slashing the Rokeby Venus Favorite 

Practitioner: 

Date: 

Mar 10 1914

On March 10, 1914, Mary Richardson slashed Velasquez's "Rokeby Venus" with a small axe during public hours at the National Gallery in London. A militant suffragette protesting the force-feeding of imprisoned suffragettes in prison (and the Cat and Mouse Act which released the starving women only until they were slightly healthier only to imprison them again), Richardson released this statement after her arrest:

"I have tried to destroy the picture of the most beautiful woman in mythological history 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."

Later, recalling her decision, Richardson wrote this:

“Law and its application reflected public opinion. Values were stressed from a financial point of view and not the human. I felt I must make my protest from the financial point of view, therefore, as well as letting it be seen as a symbolic act. I had to draw the parallel between the public’s indifference to Mrs. Pankhurst’s slow destruction and the destruction of some financially valuable object.

"A painting came to mind. Yes, yes – the Venus Velasquez had painted, hanging in the National Gallery. It was highly prized for its worth in cash. If I could damage it, I reasoned, I could draw my parallel. The fact that I had disliked the painting would make it easier for me to do what was in my mind."

Posted by KerryLynch on