- Gallery Text
In 1893, Beardsley was commissioned to illustrate Oscar Wilde’s play Salome. The drawings constitute an extraordinary achievement in design, both in their adaptation of Japanese prints and in their own definition of the precepts of art nouveau. The biblical story of Salome, the ultimate femme fatale, enjoyed a resurgence in late 19th-century art and literature. Salome performed a lascivious dance for her stepfather, King Herod, prompting him to grant her a wish. The young seductress demanded the head of John the Baptist, who had earlier rebuffed her advances.
Here, the severed head is presented on a shield raised by the executioner’s arm, which emerges from the cistern in which John was imprisoned. In Wilde’s play, Salome addresses the head: “I will kiss [thy mouth] now. I will bite it with my teeth as one bites a ripe fruit.” The themes of death, sexuality, and ingestion are intermingled; Salome and John’s open mouths echo each other, while Salome grasps John’s hair and trails her fingers in his blood.
- Identification and Creation
- Object Number
Aubrey Vincent Beardsley, British (Brighton, England 1872 - 1898 Menton, France)
- The Dancer's Reward
- Other Titles
- Series/Book Title: Salome
- Work Type
- Physical Descriptions
- Black ink and graphite on white wove paper
- 23 x 16.5 cm (9 1/16 x 6 1/2 in.)
- Inscriptions and Marks
- Signed: l.l: decorated version of the Japanese monogram
- John Lane, London; his widow, Annie Lane; their sale, Anderson Galleries, New York, November 22, 1926, no. 46i; purchased at that sale by Scott and Fowles, New York; acquired from them by Grenville L. Winthrop, November 23, 1926 ($1,100); his bequest to the Fogg Art Museum, 1943.
- State, Edition, Standard Reference Number
- Standard Reference Number
- Zatlin 873
- Acquisition and Rights
- Credit Line
- Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Bequest of Grenville L. Winthrop
- Accession Year
- Object Number
- European and American Art
- The Harvard Art Museums encourage the use of images found on this website for personal, noncommercial use, including educational and scholarly purposes. To request a higher resolution file of this image, please submit an online request.
- Publication History
Aubrey Vincent Beardsley and Aymer Vallance, A Book of Fifty Drawings, L. Smithers (London, 1897), pg. 207, no. 22, repr.
Aubrey Vincent Beardsley and Henry Currie Marillier, The Early Work of Aubrey Beardsley, John Lane (London, 1899), no. 36, repr.
Joseph Pennell, Catalogue of an Exhibition of Original Drawings by Aubrey Beardsley, exh. cat., Brooklyn Museum (Brooklyn, NY, 1923), no. 30
Blake to Beardsley: A Century of English Illustrators, exh. cat., Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 1944), no. 3
Albert E. Gallatin, Aubrey Beardsley: Catalogue of Drawings and Bibliography, The Grolier Club (New York, NY, 1945), no. 887
Brian Reade, Aubrey Beardsley, Viking Press (New York, 1967), no. 282, repr.
Dorothy W. Gillerman, ed., Grenville L. Winthrop: Retrospective for a Collector, exh. cat., Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, 1969), p. 244
Donald Thomas, The Marquis de Sade, New York Graphic Society (Boston, MA, 1976), repr. p. 177
Kenneth Clark, The Best of Aubrey Beardsley, J. Murray (London, 1979), no. 22, repr.
A.M. Hammacher, Phantoms of the Imagination: Fantasy in Art and Literature from Blake to Dali, Harry N. Abrams, Inc. (New York, NY, 1981), fig. 95, p. 112
Simon Wilson, Beardsley (revised edition), Phaidon Books (Oxford, 1983), no. 21, repr.
Linda Gertner Zatlin, Aubrey Beardsley and Victorian Sexual Politics, The Clarendon Press (Oxford, England, 1990), p. 94, fig. 50, repr.
Jeffrey Wallen, "Illustrating Salome: Perverting the Text?", Word and Image (April 1992 - June 1992), vol. 8, no. 2, repr. fig. 7
Mark Samuels Lasner, "The Pursuit of the Rare: Three Early Beardsley Collectors", Gazette of the Grolier Club (2000), no. 51, p. 17, note 34
Chikashi Kitazaki and Mina Oya, ed., Between Reality and Dreams: Nineteenth Century British and French Art from the Winthrop Collection of the Fogg Art Museum, exh. cat., National Museum of Western Art (Ueno, 2002), cat. no. 48-8, repr. (color)
Stephan Wolohojian, ed., A Private Passion: 19th-Century Paintings and Drawings from the Grenville L. Winthrop Collection, Harvard University, exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Yale University Press (U.S.) (New York, 2003), cat. no. 140, repr. (color)
Christopher Riopelle, Harvard's Winthrop Collection: Nineteenth-Century Paintings and Drawings from the Grenville L. Winthrop Collection, exh. cat., National Gallery Company Limited (London, 2003), p. 23, cat. 10, ill.
Stephan Wolohojian, Ingres, Burne-Jones, Whistler, Renoir... La Collection Grenville L. Winthrop, exh. cat., Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon and Réunion des Musées Nationaux (Paris, France, 2003), no. 140, repr.
Steven Ledbetter, "Richard Strauss: 'Salome,' Opera in one act, Opus 54", Boston Symphony Orchestra (Boston, 2014), pp. 29-37, repr. p. 31
Linda Gertner Zatlin, Aubrey Beardsley: A Catalogue Raisonné, Yale University Press (U.S.) (New Haven and London, 2016), vol. 2, no. 873, pp. 11, 18, 21, 38-40, 42, 110, repr. p. 39, detail repr. p. 2
Carey Dunne, Flowers of Evil and the Macabre Literary Imagination of Symbolism, Hyperalleric (July 4, 2016), [e-journal], http://hyperallergic.com/305877/flowers-of-evil-and-the-macabre-literary-imagination-of-symbolism/, accessed January 9, 2017
Franklin Einspruch, Fuse Visual Art Review: A Pair of Drawing Shows at the Harvard Art Museums, The Arts Fuse ([e-journal], June 9, 2016), http://artsfuse.org/146319/fuse-visual-arts-review-a-pair-of-drawing-shows-at-the-harvard-art-museums/, accessed June 9, 2016
- Exhibition History
Première salon de La Libre Esthétique, National Gallery, Brussels, 02/17/1894 - 03/15/1894
Secession VIII Kunstausstellung: Zeichnende Kunst, [Unknown venue, Berlin], 12/01/1903 - 01/31/1904
A Selection of Drawings by Aubrey Beardsley, Carfax and Co., London, 10/01/1904 - 10/31/1904
Aubrey Beardsley, 1872-1898, Galeries Shirley, Paris, 02/01/1907 - 02/28/1907
Exhibition of Drawings by Aubrey Beardsley, Baillie Gallery, London, 08/01/1909 - 09/30/1909
International Fine Arts Exhibition: British Section, British Fine Art Palace, Rome, 04/01/1911 - 10/31/1911
British Section of the International Exhibition of Book Industry and Graphic Arts: Illustration for Books, Internationale Ausstellung für Buchgewerbe und Graphic, Leipzig, 01/01/1914
An Exhibition of Original Drawings by Aubrey Beardsley, Brooklyn Museum, 12/19/1923 - 01/31/1924; Milwaukee Art Institute, 10/01/1924 - 10/30/1924; Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati, 11/01/1924 - 11/30/1924; Memorial Art Gallery, University of Rochester, Rochester, 11/29/1924 - 12/31/1924
Blake to Beardsley: A Century of English Illustrators, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 06/01/1944 - 06/30/1944
The Age of Romanticism, Busch-Reisinger Museum, Cambridge, 03/15/1986 - 05/18/1986
Between Reality and Dreams: Nineteenth Century British and French Art from the Winthrop Collection of the Fogg Art Museum, National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo, 09/14/2002 - 12/08/2002
A Private Passion: 19th-Century Paintings and Drawings from the Grenville L. Winthrop Collection, Harvard University, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon, Lyon, 03/15/2003 - 05/26/2003; National Gallery, London, 06/25/2003 - 09/14/2003; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 10/23/2003 - 01/25/2004
Flowers of Evil: Symbolist Drawings, 1870–1910, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 05/21/2016 - 08/14/2016
This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of European and American Art at firstname.lastname@example.org