The Salomé paintings of Caroline Smith



One of a series of paintings by a British artist, and what a great series it is with echoes of ancient art as well as Gustav Klimt. Also further evidence that this theme isn’t a wholly masculine preoccupation.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The Salomé archive

Mossa’s Salomés


Salomé (1901).

Monsieur Wiley prompted this post by drawing my attention to the picture above. I’d already seen another Salomé by Gustav Adolf Mossa on this page a few days ago but resisted the temptation to mention it. A bit more searching revealed yet another Mossa rendering of the theme which perhaps isn’t so surprising given the artist’s obsession with lethal women. The first exceeds all previous depictions of the Biblical temptress by having her actually licking blood from the executioner’s sword. In the third picture she’s content merely to use a severed hand as a page-turner while John the Baptist’s mutilated body is carted away by servants.

The search for pictures turned up a blog I hadn’t seen before, Women in the Bible (“This is no religious blog!”), which has several Salomé postings. And there’s also Les voiles de Salomé: Labyrinthique errance, virevoltes et volutes.


Encor Salomé (1905).


Salomé (1908).

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The Salomé archive

The art of Marcus Behmer, 1879–1958


Salomé: Der Wunsch.

Back in March I wrote something about Alex Koch’s art periodical, Deutsche Kunst und Dekoration, a guide to German arts, crafts and architecture founded in Darmstadt in 1897. The Internet Archive has a nearly complete run of these and I’ve recently been working my way through their scans, a process which takes a while as there’s more than 10,000 pages to be looked at. When I find the time I’ll be posting some of the finds from this wonderful publication, the early issues of which are devoted to the best examples of the Art Nouveau style in Germany and elsewhere.


Salomé: Die Erfüllung.

For now, however, I can’t resist posting these pictures from volume 18 (April–Spetember 1906) which form part of a feature about German illustrator Marcus Behmer. I’ve only seen one or two of Behmer’s drawings before and they didn’t really show him at his best. What’s immediately apparent is the great debt his work owed at this point to Aubrey Beardsley, right down to the treatment of foliage and a deliberately grotesque approach to character. It’s also good to find another treatment of the Salomé theme in black-and-white, and the pictures here are credited as being based on Wilde’s play.


Salomé: Das Opfer.

Wikipedia has a page about the artist but it’s all in German, unfortunately, so a crude translation has to suffice. As with Beardsley, the grotesquerie extended to the sexual sphere and it would be nice to know more about the byways of Behmer’s career if only to see where his curious erotic drawings pieces come from. Wikipedia notes that “Behmer was already since 1903 member in the first homosexual organization of the world in Berlin” so I assume that means he was part of Adolf Brand’s circle, and may have contributed to Brand’s publication Der Eigene. A few examples of the erotic work can be found here and here. Further examples from Deutsche Kunst und Dekoration follow.
Continue reading “The art of Marcus Behmer, 1879–1958”

Several Salomés


The Dance of Salomé (1885) by Robert Fowler.

There’s always more to find… Unfortunately, Robert Fowler’s academic tableaux is a prime example of bad Victorian art: carefully modelled but overlit, dull and lifeless. And worst of all for the subject at hand: deeply unerotic. We’re supposed to believe that this woman wrapped in a bedsheet would exude enough eros to drive her father to lustful recklessness. This was the bloodless “good taste” against which Oscar Wilde and the Aesthetes set themselves.


Salomé Dancing before Herod (1876) by Gustave Moreau.

Wilde’s idea of Salomé can be seen here in one of Gustave Moreau‘s many paintings on the theme. Wilde would have preferred Moreau’s paintings, or something similar, to adorn his published play but he ended up with Aubrey Beardsley instead. You only have to compare Beardsley’s Stomach Dance with Fowler’s painting to see why Aubrey’s art made such a dramatic impression in the 1890s.


Salomé (1890) by Ella Ferris Pell.

Ella Ferris Pell’s painting isn’t the only portrait of Salomé by a female artist of this period but it’s the one which Bram Dijkstra chose as the cover image for his excellent study Idols of Perversity: Fantasies of Feminine Evil in Fin-de-Siècle Culture (1986). Of this work Dijkstra writes:

In Pell’s painting a number of the most characteristic turn-of-the-century attributes of the biblical temptress are absent. She does not glare at us with a look of crazed sexual hunger; she does not have the wan, vampire features of the serpentine dancer; nor does she show herself to be a tubercular adolescent … Pell’s Salomé, a real life-woman, independent, confident, and assertive, was far more threatening, far more a visual declaration of defiance against the canons of male dominance than any of the celebrated viragoes and vampires created by turn-of-the-century intellectuals could ever have been. Such a woman could not be disposed of in as cavalier a fashion as the evil women in man’s mind. Her indomitable reality was this feminist Salomé’s most formidable weapon, far more dangerous than any imaginary decapitating sword.


Salomé (1909), two paintings by Robert Henri.

Finally, there’s this pair of paintings by American artist Robert Henri whose work resembles John Singer Sargent’s in its shadowed backgrounds and light brushstrokes. Salomé was no longer a perennial theme by this point but Maud Allan’s improvised dance performance, Vision of Salomé, was proving enormously popular at the time Henri painted these pictures which may explain his choice of subject. There’s little in the rest of his oeuvre along similar lines.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The Salomé archive

Julius Klinger’s Salomé


Salomé (1909).

I thought this current thread was finished yesterday but it seems not. Julius Klinger (1876–1942) was an Austrian artist and designer whose early work can be found in the first numbers of Jugend magazine. Subsequent work includes a number of erotic illustrations such as top-heavy Salomé here, a depiction which startles when you notice she’s carrying a set of severed genitals in place of the more usual human head. Given that many feminist and Freudian art critics tend to see the Salomé story as an emasculation metaphor this is perhaps appropriate.


This pair of untitled pieces are from a feature on Klinger’s black-and-white work in #21 of Deutsche Kunst und Dekoration (1907), the entire edition of which can be downloaded here. The picture above may be another Salomé but is more likely that other decapitating heroine, Judith, with the head of Holofernes. The picture below, meanwhile, is entirely mysterious, and another fine addition to the artistic sub-genre of human/cephalopod encounters. Thanks to billy for pointing the way to all of these.


Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The illustrators archive
The Salomé archive