Diego Velazquez “Rokeby Venus” (detail) / meat cleaver
This painting was attacked in 1914 while on view at London’s National Gallery. Mary Richardson, a suffragette, used a meat cleaver she’d hidden in her coat, slashing the canvas repeatedly. She later declared her deed as an act of protest against the arrest of fellow suffragette Emmaline Parkhurst.
Upon her arrest, she issued the following letter of explanation:
“I have tried to destroy the picture of the most beautiful woman in mythological history as a protest against the Government for destroying Mrs Parkhurst, 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. Parkhurst 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.”