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Print - Enter Herodias
  • Enter Herodias
    Beardsley, Aubrey Vincent, born 1872 - died 1898
  • Enlarge image

Enter Herodias

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    1890s (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

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

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Photo-process print on paper

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level E, case I, shelf 50, box E

Physical description

Black and white line block print on Japanese vellum depicting four figures, including the statuesque queen in the centre with bare breasts and billowing hair, a naked somewhat hermaphrodite figure of a page, his genitals covered with a large fig leaf, a jester-type owl-capped figure in the bottom right and a foetus-headed grotesque attendant to the left of the image. This figure conceals a large erection beneath his garment. Further phallic motifs can be seen in the sconces of the candlestick in the lower frieze of the design.

Place of Origin

England (made)


1890s (made)


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

Materials and Techniques

Photo-process print on paper


Height: 177 mm image, Width: 129 mm image, Height: 286 mm sheet, Width: 224 mm sheet

Object history note

Historically, the term hermaphrodite was used to describe people born with sex characteristics which do not fit the typical definitions for male or female bodies. The word intersex has come into preferred usage for humans, since the word hermaphrodite is now considered to be stigmatizing as well as clinically problematic. The term is repeated in this record in its original historical context.

According to Stephen Calloway in his book, Aubrey Beardsley, London: V&A Publications, 1998, pp. 74-75: 'In Enter Herodias , Beardsley introduced a retinue of dubious characters, including a bizarre, somewhat hermaphrodite figure of a page, whose feminine cast of features and uncompromisingly frontal nudity clearly revealed that he was unaroused by the splendid vision of the brazenly bare-breasted queen. Beardsley was required to conceal this sexually tell-tale detail, and therefore drew a large and quite clearly ironic fig-leaf tied in place with a bow across the equivocal page's loins. This satisfied the objectors, all of whom, astonishingly, failed to notice either the clear outline of a monstrous erection ill-concealed by the taughtly stretched garment worn by a second, far more grotesque - though sexually conformist - attendant, or the seemingly obvious phallic shapes barely concealed as the sconces of a strange candlestick in the lower frieze of the design. On a proof copy (made from a photograph taken before the drawing was altered, and which therefore preserves the entirely unexpurgated image) which he presented to his friend, Alfred Lambart, Beardsley wrote a short, wryly funny rhyme:
Because one figure was undressed
This little drawing was suppressed
It was unkind
But never mind
Perhaps it was all for the best.'
Regarding the use of embryo motifs in his work, Calloway stated on page 53 of the book above, that: 'Beardsley's obsessive depiction of embryo motifs around this time has fuelled endless, but ultimately inconclusive, speculation concerning the possibility of the traumatic involvement of either Aubrey or his sister (or, it has also been suggested, of both) in an abortion. The sight of either an actual embryo, or more likely an illustration of one clearly created an indelible impression upon the artist's imagination.'

A Portfolio of Aubrey Beardsley's drawings illustrating "Salome" by Oscar Wilde.

I The Woman in the Moon X The Eyes of Herod
II Design for Title Page XI The Stomach Dance
III Cover Design XII The Toilette of Salome - I
IV Design for the List of Pictures XIII The Toilette of Salome - II
V The Peacock Skirt XIV The Dancer's Reward
VI The Black Cape XV The Climax
VII A Platonic Lament XVI Salome on Settle
VIII John and Salome XVII Cul de lampe
IX Enter Herodias

Descriptive line

Print by Aubrey Beardsley, 'Enter Herodias', plate IX from 'A Portfolio of Aubrey Beardsley's drawings illustrating 'Salome' by Oscar Wilde'




Line block


Prints; Illustration; Theatre; Books; Gender and Sexuality

Production Type

Mass produced


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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