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Drawing - The Lacedaemonian Ambassadors
  • The Lacedaemonian Ambassadors
    Beardsley, Aubrey Vincent, born 1872 - died 1898
  • Enlarge image

The Lacedaemonian Ambassadors

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Epsom (drawn)

  • Date:

    1896 (drawn)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Beardsley, Aubrey Vincent, born 1872 - died 1898 (draughtsman (artist))

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Pen and ink over pencil on paper

  • Credit Line:

    Purchased with Art Fund support

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    On short term loan out for exhibition

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 Aristphanes' broad sexual comedy. Here he also makes a play upon the idea that in time of war the Lacedaemonian men dressed their hair and wore make-up without damaging their potency.

Physical description

A pen and ink drawing over traces of pencil depicting three naked men, all with oversized erect penises. The first diminutive figure wears an elaborate feathered turban, the other two fanciful stockings and shoes.

Place of Origin

Epsom (drawn)


1896 (drawn)


Beardsley, Aubrey Vincent, born 1872 - died 1898 (draughtsman (artist))

Materials and Techniques

Pen and ink over pencil on paper

Marks and inscriptions



Height: 262 mm image, Width: 180 mm image, Height: 278 mm sheet, Width: 194 mm sheet

Object history note

This drawing is for the illustration facing p 50 in The Lysistrata of Aristophanes, London, Leonard Smithers, 1896.

Descriptive line

Drawing by Aubrey Beardsley, 'The Lacedaemonian Ambassadors', Illustration to Lysistrata by Aristophanes, published by Leonard Smithers, London 1896 (facing page 50). Pen and ink.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Aristophanes. The Lysistrata of Aristophanes: now first wholly translated into English and illustrated with eight full page drawings by Aubrey Beardsley. London: Leonard Smithers, 1896. 61p, 8 plates.
Reade, Brian. Aubrey Beardsley. 1969. Cat. 466.
Tim Batchelor, Cedar Lewisohn, Martin Myrone Rude Britannia: British Comic Art London: Tate Publishing, 2010. ISBN: 9781854378866.
Eds. Timothy Clark, C. Andrew Gerstle, Aki Ishigami and Akiko Yano, Shunga: sex and pleasure in Japanese Art, London, British Museum, 2013. ISBN: 9780714124766.
pp. 498-9

Production Note

Beardsley completed the eight drawings for Lysistrata during a stay at the Spread Eagle Hotel, Epsom, where he had been sent in the hope that country air would help arrest the development of tuberculosis.


Paper; Pen and Indian ink



Subjects depicted

Penis; Turban


Drawings; Illustration; Prints; Gender and Sexuality

Production Type



Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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