On 10 March 1913, the artist, arsonist, and suffragette Mary Richardson, alias Polly Dick, a member of the militant Women's Social and Political Union, walked into London's National Gallery and took an axe to Velázquez's ‘Rokeby Venus’. Her act resulted in the closure of the National Gallery and other museums. At her trial Richardson announced: ‘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.’ In 1911 Umberto Boccioni wrote to his friend Gino Severini in heady enthusiasm about the manifestos he had co-written and signed—Futurist Painting and Sculpture (January 1910), and Futurist Painting: Technical Manifesto (April 1910). The first featured the familiar futurist exhortation to smash the ‘cult of the past, all things old, academic pedantry’, to bear ‘bravely and proudly’ the banner of ‘madness’ with which ‘they’ try to dismiss innovators. Boccioni echoes the words of Marinetti's The Foundation and Manifesto of Futurism (1909):
So let them come, the gay incendiaries with charred fingers! Here they are! … Come on! Set fire to the library shelves! Turn aside the canals to flood the museums! O the joy of seeing the glorious old canvasses bobbing adrift on those waters, discoloured and shredded … Take up your pickaxes, your axes and hammers and wreck, wreck the vulnerable cities.