what scene does beardsley’s illustration the stomach dance depict in the play?
[Click on thumbnail for larger image.]
From left to right: Moreau’s Salome dancing before Herod , attooed Salome , and The Apparition . [Click on thumbnails for larger images.]
The Art of Aubrey Beardsley:
A Fin de Siecle Critique of Victorian Society
Despite this, Salomé’s outfit is still luxurious and befitting a skilled dancer. Black-and-white printed harem pants emulate her trouser’s silhouette, while a crop top bares just enough skin to still be appropriate for your afternoon lecture.
The dichotomy of black and white is particularly important in these scene: Salomé is both attracted and repelled by the impoverished Jokanaan; to her, his white skin is like that of a leper, but his black hair is beautiful. The two are depicted similarly, however – her infatuation with the mystic is made identical to the young Syrian’s and Herod’s infatuation with her.
This idea of a power of androgyny is explored in Beardsley’s work in ‘Salome and John’ and ‘The Eyes of Herod’. In ‘Salome and John’, both figures share the same indistinguishable gender in their facial features, and could both be male or female, if it were not for her exposed breasts. Additionally in ‘The Eyes of Herod’ Salome appears to be more masculine, if it were not for her naked breasts. In both these images Salome therefore can be seen as simultaneously embodying the power inherent in males and the sexual power of the female. Moreover in ‘The Eyes of Herod’ Salome is above Herod thus illustrating her superior power her androgyny instils her with, making her the ultimate threat to the patriarch.
Salome’s perceived power is not only depicted as being rooted in her sexuality, but as Brad Bucknell points out it is this coupled with her command of ‘the Word’ which is traditionally reserved for men. Bucknell highlights how although Salome is unnamed – unlike her mother Herodias – she is given a voice and is able to address Herod, also unlike Herodias. The emphasis on oaths in the story is crucial as it is the power of oaths (The Word) which initially keeps Herod from killing John and instead imprisoning him, and it is the power of Herod’s public oath, that means he must fulfil Salome’s gruesome request. Thus, ‘the power of the word is inverted and turned back upon its possessors, the prophecy and the power of the tetrarch’ (505): essentially Salome undermines the complete authority of the patriarch. Therefore Salome is an incredibly powerful and threatening figure, as not only does she possess a powerful feminine sexuality, but also a masculine command of the word which she uses to kill a man.
Another influence on Wilde was the story Herodias, by the French writer by Gustave Flaubert, in which Salome dances on her hands to please Antipas. This type of dance was common among “gypsy” acrobats in the 19th century.
The erotic impact of Wilde’s vision was greatly enhanced by Aubrey Beardsley’s illustration, depicting what the artist called a “stomach dance”. Wilde wrote in appreciation of Beardsley’s design: “For Aubrey: for the only artist who, besides myself, knows what the dance of the seven veils is, and can see that invisible dance.” The concept of ‘belly dancing’ had become widely known in 1893, the year before Beardsley created his designs, when it was featured at the World’s Fair in Chicago.