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Not currently on display at the V&A

Lysistrata shielding her coynte

1896 (made)

Drawing by Aubrey Beardsley, 'Lysistrata shielding her Coynte', Drawing for the frontispiece to Lysistrata by Aristophanes, published by Leonard Smithers, London 1896. Pen and ink.

Object details

Object type
TitleLysistrata shielding her coynte
Materials and techniques
Pen and ink over traces of preparatory graphite
Brief description
Drawing by Aubrey Beardsley, 'Lysistrata shielding her Coynte', Drawing for the frontispiece to Lysistrata by Aristophanes, published by Leonard Smithers, London 1896. Pen and ink.
  • Image height: 260mm
  • Image width: 178mm
  • Sheet height: 266mm
  • Sheet width: 182mm
Credit line
Purchased with Art Fund support
Object history
Provenance: Leonard Smithers; Herbert Pollitt; R. A. Harari
Bibliographic reference
Linda Gertner Zatlin, Aubrey Beardsley : a catalogue raisonne. New Haven : Yale University Press, [2016] 2 volumes (xxxi, [1], 519, [1] pages; xi, [1], 547, [1] pages) : illustrations (some color) ; 31 cm. ISBN: 9780300111279 The entry is as follows: 1032 Lysistrata shielding her Coynte 16 December 1895 or c.15 July 1896 Victoria and Albert Museum, London (E.294-1972) Pen and Indian ink over traces of pencil on white wove paper secured to backing by slotted hinges; 10 1/2 x 7 3/16 inches (267 x 183 mm); signed. INSCRIPTIONS: Recto inscribed by artist in capital letters in ink: LYSISTRATA / [at lower left on pillar base]: AUBREY / BEARDSLEY; Verso in pencil: 2 / [on affixed paper]: RS65a / 19 / [in black ink]: [stamp of Victoria and Albert Museum] FLOWERS: Dwarf sunflower (adoration); rose [Bourbon type] (love, passion); olive branch (peace). PROVENANCE: Leonard Smithers; bt. Herbert J. Pollitt; bt. [sale brokered by R. A. Walker] Sir Gerald F Kelly and Morton H Sands (sole owner by 1958), by descent in 1960 to Sand’s nephew, Colonel M. Sands; offered [with the assistance of ColnaghiLtd.] to R. A. Harari; bt. Private collector; bt Richard Hughes Hallet (art dealer); offered to B Rota Ltd. on 20 January 1961; bt. R. A. Harari c. 1962, by descent to Michael Harari; bt. Victoria and Albert Museum in 1972 with the aid of a contribution from the National Art Collections Fund. EXHIBITION: London 1966-8 (461), 1973 (54); Munich 1984 (229); Rome 1985 (13.i); London 1993 (114), 1997-8 (159) LITERATURE: Vallance 1897 (p.210), 1909 (no. 143.i); Gallatin 1945 (no 1066); Reade 1967 (p. 360, n.460); Letters 1970 (pp.125, 130-40, 143-5, 150); Fletcher 1987 (pp. 168-9); Zatlin in Langenfeld 1989 (pp. 184, 187); Zatlin 1990 (p. 173); Samuels Lasner 1995 (no.107); Zatlin 1997 (p. 171); Wilson in Wilson and Zadin 1998 (p. 246 n.153); Pease 2000 (pp. 103, 107) REPRODUCED: Frontispiece, facing title page, for Aristophanes’ ‘Lysistrata’, published by Leonard Smithers in October 1896; ‘Later Work’ 1901 (no. 87, expurgated); Die Opale 1907 (vol. I, pp. 192, 200); Reade 1967 (plate.460). Beardsley presented Lysistrata as a mature woman, gazing implacably into the distance. She is flanked by two references to fertility that the Athenian women have foresworn. On the half-glimpsed priapic god at the left, the phallus ‘emits a gloria like those on the heads of saints’, its engorged state announcing the theme of frustration (Fletcher 1987 p. 168). The giant phallus on the right is ‘rendered’ as sculpture, the public hair appearing as formalised plant growth from which the sculpted form rises’ (p. 169; see also Wilson in Wilson and Zadin 1998, p. 246 n.153). Lysistrata rests her left hand ‘on this amazing object as if it were a garden ornament, holding delicately between her fingers a spray of olive, an image that clearly encapsulates the action of the play’ (Fletcher 1987, p. 169). Her casual proprietary gesture specifies women’s sexual control and alludes to frustrated male desire. The olive branch represents peace between the city-states, which the women try to achieve by taking the Acropolis, and the masses of white bring the viewer’s eye to Lysistrata’s right hand, covering her sexual parts to indicate the ‘women’s refusal of sexual access until the men stop fighting’ (Wilson in Wilson and Zatlin 1998, p. 246, n. 153).
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Record createdJune 30, 2009
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