Enter Herodias

Print
1894 (first published), 1907 (published)
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Prints & Drawings Study Room, level E
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

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 androgynous 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.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Additional TitleA Portfolio of Aubrey Beardsley's drawings illustrating 'Salome' by Oscar Wilde (series title)
Materials and Techniques
Line block print on Japanese vellum
Brief Description
Print by Aubrey Beardsley, 'Enter Herodias', plate IX from 'A Portfolio of Aubrey Beardsley's drawings illustrating 'Salome' by Oscar Wilde', published by John Lane, London, 1907, line block print on Japanese vellum
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 androgynous 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.
Dimensions
  • Image height: 221mm
  • Image width: 161mm
  • Sheet height: 343mm
  • Sheet width: 272mm
Style
Marks and Inscriptions
  • 'PLATE IX' (Printed text in the lower left hand corner of the sheet.)
  • (Signed with the artist's monogram, just off-centre in the lower section of the image.)
Credit line
Given by Michael Harari, in memory of his father, Ralph A. Harari
Object history
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.



From 'A Portfolio of Aubrey Beardsley's drawings illustrating 'Salome' by Oscar Wilde'. Second issue. Published by John Lane, London [1907]. With contents sheet in letterpress and 17 plates [E.422 to 438-1972] in a portfolio of grey-green paper boards, half bound in vellum, with green silk tapes, stamped in gold with title and the rose-bush motif from the 1894 edition. With the stamp of A. Lang Buchhandlung Moskau inside the front cover.



The plates are no longer in the portfolio but are now mounted separately.



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.'
Production
First printed in 1894; this print is from the second edition, 1907.
Subject depicted
Association
Literary ReferenceOscar Wilde's 'Salome'
Associated Objects
Bibliographic References
  • Victoria and Albert Museum Department of Prints, Drawings and Paintings Accession Register for 1972
  • Calloway, Stephen. Aubrey Beardsley. London: V & A Publications, 1998. 224pp, illus. ISBN: 1851772197.pp. 74-75
Other Number
Plate IX - Plate number
Collection
Accession Number
E.430-1972

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record createdJuly 1, 2009
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