The Toilette of Salome I

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 Salome, who is seated and is naked apart from a wrap, in front of a Godwin-style dressing table on which are numerous ornaments and books, as well as a vase of flowers. A bald pierrot of a barber stands to the side of Salome attending to her, a small powder puff in his left hand, whilst a naked page appears on the right of the image, holding a tray complete with refreshments. To the left of the design are two figures: a semi-naked woman holding a stringed instrument and a seated naked man, possibly in the act of masturbating. In the background of the image is a window, which is partially obscured by curtains.


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, 'The Toilette of Salome I', plate XIII 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 Salome, who is seated and is naked apart from a wrap, in front of a Godwin-style dressing table on which are numerous ornaments and books, as well as a vase of flowers. A bald pierrot of a barber stands to the side of Salome attending to her, a small powder puff in his left hand, whilst a naked page appears on the right of the image, holding a tray complete with refreshments. To the left of the design are two figures: a semi-naked woman holding a stringed instrument and a seated naked man, possibly in the act of masturbating. In the background of the image is a window, which is partially obscured by curtains.
Dimensions
  • Sheet height: 343mm
  • Sheet width: 272mm
  • Image height: 224mm
  • Image width: 161mm
Style
Marks and Inscriptions
  • 'PLATE XIII' (Printed text in the lower left hand corner of the sheet)
  • (Signed with the artist's monogram in the lower right hand corner of the image.)
Credit line
Given by Michael Harari, in memory of his father, Ralph A. Harari
Object history
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.



This image, the original design for 'The Toilette of Salome' (E.434-1972) was deemed unacceptable by the publishers and so Beardsley was asked to provide another design (E.433-1972). According to Stephen Calloway in his book, Aubrey Beardsley, London: V&A Publications, 1998, pp. 75-77: 'At least three of Beardsley's drawings were considered quite 'impossible' by Lane and his unofficial censorship board. The most problematic of all was the first version of The Toilet of Salome, a scene in which Salome is seen seated, naked except for a vague suggestion of a wrap, at a thoroughly modern dressing-table with elegant attenuated legs in ebonised wood in the smart, Aesthetic Movement style of E.W. Godwin. Apart from the curious extent to which, in setting and characterisation, the illustration wilfully strayed from Wilde's text in which no such episode occurs, the figure of Salome herself appears from the heavy lids of her eyes and dreamy smile, from the erect profile of the nipple of her bare breast and, not least, from the position of her hand, to be quite obviously lost in a masturbatory reverie. Indeed, on closer inspection of the supporting figures and incidental details, it is clear that the entire image is full of other, more coded references to depravity, any of which might, however, have proved all too easy for a nineteenth-century audience to read. These included not just the facial and physical looks and gestures of the other attendants, but also subtle details such as the bent spine (thought by most moral Victorian observers to be an inevitable outcome and overt evidence of solitary vice) exhibited by the sexually ambiguous - and also masturbating - creature seated in the foreground on a fashionable Moorish stool.'
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
  • Cogeval, Guy & Avanzi, Beatrice (Eds.), De la Scene au Tableau, Paris : Flammarion, 2009190
  • 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.
Other Number
Plate XIII - Plate number
Collection
Accession Number
E.434-1972

About this object record

Explore the Collections contains over a million catalogue records, and over half a million images. It is a working database that includes information compiled over the life of the museum. Some of our records may contain offensive and discriminatory language, or reflect outdated ideas, practice and analysis. We are committed to addressing these issues, and to review and update our records accordingly.

You can write to us to suggest improvements to the record.

Suggest Feedback

record createdFebruary 4, 2009
Record URL