The suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst had been arrested the previous day. Richardson got a 6-month sentence (the most that could be given for vandalizing artwork. In a much later interview — in 1952 — she said she didn't like "the way men visitors gaped at [the painting] all day long."
Contemporary reports of the incident reveal that the picture was not widely seen as mere artwork. Journalists tended to assess the attack in terms of a murder (Richardson was nicknamed "Slasher Mary"), and used words that conjured wounds inflicted on an actual female body, rather than on a pictorial representation of a female body. The Times, in an article that contained factual inaccuracies as to the painting's provenance, described a "cruel wound in the neck", as well as incisions to the shoulders and back.Here's how it looked:
Here's the full text of Richardson's statement:
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.From the same link, this a description of the attack from the London Times, March 11, 1914:
Miss Richardson, who was released under the "Cat and Mouse Act" in October last and has not since been rearrested, visited the National Gallery about 11 o’clock yesterday morning. She is a small woman, and was attired in a tight-fitting grey coat and skirt. She stood in front of the Rokeby Venus for some moments, apparently in contemplation of it. There was nothing in her appearance or demeanour to arouse the suspicions of the uniformed attendant and a police constable who were on duty in the room and were standing within seven or eight yards of her. The first thought of the attendant, when he heard the smashing of glass, was that the skylight had been broken; but a moment later he saw the woman hacking furiously at the picture with a chopper which, it is assumed, she had concealed under her jacket. He ran towards her, but he was retarded somewhat by the polished and slippery floor. The constable reached the woman first and seizing her by the right arm prevented her from doing further mischief. She allowed herself to be led quietly away to the inspectors’ office. Addressing a few visitors to the Gallery who had meanwhile collected, she said, "Yes, I am a suffragette. You can get another picture, but you cannot get a life, as they are killing Mrs. Pankhurst.The "Cat and Mouse Act" is explained here, where you can see this poster:
Years ago, in Amsterdam, when I traveled — like Bill Griffith — with a sketchbook instead of a camera, I encountered a ceramic version of that poster at that Cat Museum:
ADDED: That 6-month sentence makes me want to do another one of my parodies of "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll."
In the courtroom of honor, the judge pounded his gavelYou know, you can't get another Velázquez painting any more than you can get another Mrs. Pankhurst. If you can "get another picture," you can get another woman. Ah, but can you get a woman that makes accurate analogies? These women are rare, though not as rare as Velázquez paintings.
To show that all’s equal and that the courts are on the level...
And he spoke through his cloak, most deep and distinguished
And handed out strongly, for penalty and repentance
Mary Richardson with a six-month sentence
Oh, but you who philosophize disgrace and criticize all fears
Bury the rag deep in your face
For now’s the time for your tears