Lysistrata Haranguing the Athenian Women thumbnail 1
Not currently on display at the V&A

Lysistrata Haranguing the Athenian Women

Drawing
1896 (made)
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. 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.

The illustration depicts the key moment in the play at which Lysistrata exhorts the Athenian women to abstain from all sexual congress with their husbands until peace is declared between the Athenian men and the Lacedaemonians. The prospect of a sustained period of abstinence leads one of the women to make an overt sexual advance on another.

This print comes from the folio of reproductions made from Beardsley's original drawings and published in about 1929. Utilising the expensive collotype process, these prints are much closer to the originals than the earlier line-block prints of the 1896 edition of the book or the various, mostly very poor reproductions included in subsequent pirated printings.

Object details

Categories
Object type
Titles
  • Lysistrata Haranguing the Athenian Women (assigned by artist)
  • Lysistrata (assigned by artist)
Materials and techniques
Pen and ink on paper
Brief description
Drawing by Aubrey Beardsley, 'Lysistrata Haranguing the Athenian Women', illustration to 'Lysistrata' by Aristophanes, published by Leonard Smithers, London 1896 (facing page 12), pen and ink on paper, Epsom, England, 1896
Physical description
A drawing in black ink on white paper depicting Lysistrata from behind, dressed in floor-length flounced gown, bloomers and slippers, addressing three naked Athenian women facing the viewer.
Dimensions
  • Sheet height: 27.4cm
  • Sheet width: 19.4cm
  • Image height: 259mm
  • Image width: 180mm
Marks and inscriptions
'AUBREY BEARDSLEY' (Signed in ink bottom left corner)
Credit line
Purchased with Art Fund support
Object history
One of eight illustrations by Beardsley for 'The Lysistrata of Aristophanes' that was published in London by Leonard Smithers in 1896.
Production
BEARDSLEY, Aubrey Vincent (1872-1898)
Subjects depicted
Associations
Literary reference'Lysistrata' by Aristophanes
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. 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.

The illustration depicts the key moment in the play at which Lysistrata exhorts the Athenian women to abstain from all sexual congress with their husbands until peace is declared between the Athenian men and the Lacedaemonians. The prospect of a sustained period of abstinence leads one of the women to make an overt sexual advance on another.

This print comes from the folio of reproductions made from Beardsley's original drawings and published in about 1929. Utilising the expensive collotype process, these prints are much closer to the originals than the earlier line-block prints of the 1896 edition of the book or the various, mostly very poor reproductions included in subsequent pirated printings.
Associated objects
Bibliographic references
  • Calloway, Stephen. Aubrey Beardsley. London: V & A Publications, 1998. 224pp, illus. ISBN: 1851772197.
  • 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: 1034 Lysistrata haranguing the Athenian Women By 27 June 1896 Victoria and Albert Museum, London (E.296-1972) Pen, brush and Indian ink over traces of pencil on white wove paper secured to backing with slotted hinges; 10 13/16 x 7 1/16 inches (275 x 195 mm); signed. INSCRIPTIONS: Recto inscribed by artist in ink at lower left: AUBREY BEARDSLEY; Verso in pencil: 7 / E.296-1972 / 29 FLOWERS: Rose [Bourbon type] (love, passion). 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 Colnaghi Ltd.] 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 (463). LITERATURE: Vallance 1897 (p.210), 1909 (no. 141.iii); Gallatin 1945 (no 1068); Reade 1967 (p. 360, n. 462); ‘Letters’ 1970 (pp. 138, 139); Fletcher 1987 (p. 167); Zatlin in Langenfeld 1989 (pp. 187, 196); Samuels Lasner 1995 (no.107); Wilson in Wilson and Zatlin 1998 (p. 246 n.154). REPRODUCED: Facing page 12 in ‘Lysistrata’, published by Leonard Smithers in October 1896; ‘Second Book of Fifty Drawings’ 1899 (plate 44, expurgated); ‘Later Work’ 1901 (no. 89, expurgated); Reade 1967 (plate.462). By June 1896, Beardsley had travelled from Brussels, where he had fallen gravely ill, to London, and then to Epsom, which he found ‘a capital place for work and play. I have taken a half-holiday today as the haranguing picture is completed beautifully, and the pencil work for the obstreperous Athenians as well’ (‘Letters 1970, p. 138). This drawing, which he sent to Smithers on about 29 June 1896, illustrates Lysistrata telling the women that they can help her put ‘an end to war’ if they ‘abstain from - Penis’ (‘Lysistrata’ 1896, p. 7). He shows the women being ‘reluctantly persuaded that it is in their long term interest to deprive themselves of male company in the immediate short term’ (Wilson in Wilson and Zatlin 1998, p. 246, n.154). Beardsley makes it clear that the woman at the right of the trio is ‘already considering her neighbour as a possible alternative to man’ (n. 154). But the ‘charity’ she offers her neighbour is made ‘virtually impossible’ because of that woman’s feet (Fletcher 1987, p.167). These women are neither seductive nor narcissistic, but comfortable with their nudity. While they may titillate an observer, that is not their sole intent (Zatlin in Langen feld 1989, p. 187). The woman in Felicien Rops’ watercolour and dry-point engraving ‘En Visite’, whose hand gesture is anything but casual (reproduced in Exsteens 1928, vol VI, plate 768). Although Beardsley used themes that Rops used, he avoided Ropsian titillation by creating women who explore their sexuality naturally and unabashedly (Zatlin in langenfeld 1989, pp. 187, 196). Moreover, at the far left he depicts an older woman with ‘baggy thighs and puffy flesh under her eyes’, but he does not diminish her sexual appeal, nor ridicule her; ‘[s]he is not a used-up body, but a woman joined in a cause with women young enough to be her daughters… [and] she has a quiet dignity (Zatlin 1990, p.87). The reproduction in ‘Later Work’ cuts off the trio of women at the left from underneath their breasts with a rectangular panel like the one in the title page for the Pierrot’s Library series (no. 959 above). A few copies were printed in dull mauve (WA).
Collection
Accession number
E.296-1972

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Record createdJune 30, 2009
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