The Examination of the Herald

Drawing
1896 (drawn)
The Examination of the Herald thumbnail 1
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Prints & Drawings Study Room, level E
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Aubrey Beardsley's distinctive black and white drawings for Oscar Wilde's Salomé, published in 1894, brought him an extraordinary notoriety whilst still in his early twenties. His work for the periodical The Yellow Book confirmed his position as the most innovative illustrator of the day, but as a result of the hostile moralistic outcry that followed the arrest and trial of Oscar Wilde in early 1895, John Lane and other publishers panicked and dropped Beardsley. Thereafter, almost the only publisher who would use his drawings was Leonard Smithers. Smithers was a brilliant but shady character who operated on the fringes of the rare book trade, issuing small, clandestine editions of risqué books with the boast: 'I will publish the things the others are afraid to touch'. Smithers encouraged Beardsley's already growing interest in French, Latin and Greek texts of this kind and commissioned drawings to illustrate the Satires of the late Roman poet Juvenal and, most famously, Aristophanes's bawdy satirical play Lysistrata.

Beardsley knew of the ancient Greek theatrical tradition whereby the actors in comedies wore enormous stage-prop phalluses. He made appropriate and amusing use of the motif in several of his illustrations to Aristophanes' broad sexual comedy. Here, as on stage, the visual joke lies in the comparison between the youthful vigour displayed by the Herald and the decrepitude of the Athenian elder.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Pen and ink over pencil on paper
Brief Description
Drawing by Aubrey Beardsley, 'The Examination of the Herald', Illustration to Lysistrata by Aristophanes, published by Leonard Smithers, London 1896 (facing page 46). Pen and ink.
Physical Description
Pen and ink drawing with traces of pencil of a young man, his cloak revealing and stockings, with an oversized erect penis which is being examined by a smaller older man whose cloak and loose trousers reveal his drooping genitalia.
Dimensions
  • Image height: 262mm
  • Image width: 180mm
  • Sheet height: 278mm
  • Sheet width: 194mm
Production typeUnique
Marks and Inscriptions
'AUBREY BEARDSLEY' (signature)
Credit line
Purchased with Art Fund support
Object history
This drawing is for the illustration facing p 46 in The Lysistrata of Aristophanes. London: Leonard Smithers, 1896.
Subjects depicted
Summary
Aubrey Beardsley's distinctive black and white drawings for Oscar Wilde's Salomé, published in 1894, brought him an extraordinary notoriety whilst still in his early twenties. His work for the periodical The Yellow Book confirmed his position as the most innovative illustrator of the day, but as a result of the hostile moralistic outcry that followed the arrest and trial of Oscar Wilde in early 1895, John Lane and other publishers panicked and dropped Beardsley. Thereafter, almost the only publisher who would use his drawings was Leonard Smithers. Smithers was a brilliant but shady character who operated on the fringes of the rare book trade, issuing small, clandestine editions of risqué books with the boast: 'I will publish the things the others are afraid to touch'. Smithers encouraged Beardsley's already growing interest in French, Latin and Greek texts of this kind and commissioned drawings to illustrate the Satires of the late Roman poet Juvenal and, most famously, Aristophanes's bawdy satirical play Lysistrata.



Beardsley knew of the ancient Greek theatrical tradition whereby the actors in comedies wore enormous stage-prop phalluses. He made appropriate and amusing use of the motif in several of his illustrations to Aristophanes' broad sexual comedy. Here, as on stage, the visual joke lies in the comparison between the youthful vigour displayed by the Herald and the decrepitude of the Athenian elder.
Associated Object
E.348-1972 (Reproduction)
Bibliographic References
  • Aristophanes. The Lysistrata of Aristophanes: now first wholly translated into English and illustrated with eight full page drawings by Aubrey Beardsley. London: L Smithers, 1896. 61p, 8 plates.
  • Reade, Brian. Aubrey Beardsley. 1969. Cat. 465.
  • Tim Batchelor, Cedar Lewisohn, Martin Myrone Rude Britannia: British Comic Art London: Tate Publishing, 2010. ISBN: 9781854378866.
Collection
Accession Number
E.300-1972

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record createdMarch 8, 2007
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