Echoes of Aubrey


More of Aubrey Beardsley’s posthumous influence and more of the delightful collision between the 1890s and the 1960s. Monsieur Thombeau turned up this striking fashion shoot from LIFE magazine for 1967 showing a model posed against one of the Salomé drawings. A couple of days after this was posted, a reader wrote to point me to this list of films featuring Beardsley artwork. Most of those I knew about already but I certainly hadn’t heard of Death Bed: The Bed That Eats (1977), a low-budget horror film about which we’re told:

A large, black, four-poster bed, possessed by a demon, is passed from owner to owner. The demon was a tree, who became a breeze and seemingly fell in love with a woman he blew past. The demon then took human form and conjured up a bed. While he was making love with the woman she died and his eyes bled onto the bed, causing it to become possessed. Those who come into contact with the bed are frequently consumed by it (victims are pulled into what is apparently a large chamber of digestive fluids beneath the sheets). The bed demonstrates a malevolent intelligence as well as some psychokinetic and limited telepathic abilities to manipulate dreams. A running commentary or chorus is supplied by the ghost—if that is the correct word—of an artist (who would appear to be Aubrey Beardsley, though this is never stated directly) trapped behind a painting on the wall.

That’s a posthumous fame Aubrey never would have anticipated. If anyone has seen this, let us know what you thought.


Carry On Loving (1970).

Absent from the list of films is Ken Russell’s Salome’s Last Dance, which features the Salomé pictures again in its title sequence, and Carry On Loving, one of the dreadful British sex comedies which has an entire scene set in a modish pad decorated with Beardsley prints. Watch the scene in question here, if you must.


The prints were produced by a London company, Gallery Five, in the late 60s, and their ad shows they were also selling works by Kay Nielsen (seen in the Carry On clip), John Austen, Charles Ricketts, George Barbier, Jessie King and others. Gallery Five did much to popularise Beardsley’s art among people who might otherwise have never noticed his work, and their products turn up in many films and TV dramas of the period. Finally—although it’s by no means the last word on this subject—the V&A has two great Beardsley-derived ads for Elliott Boots by Paul Christodoulou here and here.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The Aubrey Beardsley archive

10 thoughts on “Echoes of Aubrey”

  1. In the 1970s a Beardsleyesque b&w wallpaper was produced in two versions: one showing line illustrations of naked women, the other naked adonises. The first I often saw used in hairdressing salons and boutiques during that period, but I only saw the second once. I’ve always wondered which company produced them as I’m sure they would be very popular if revived. Have you ever seen them?

  2. Yes, that wallpaper is also in the V&A collection and was mentioned in an earlier post of mine. The museum says it was produced by Arthur Sanderson & Sons but last time I searched I didn’t find any other information about it.

  3. Gallery Five! That takes me back. I had a print of The Stomach Dance from Beardsley’s Salome on my bedroom wall all through college. His designs were widely, er, borrowed during the sixties. When I was at primary school, in the early sixties there was a craze for paper carrier bags with a version of the lily design from his cover for the Morte D’Arthur, in either turquoise-and-mauve or shocking pink-and-orange. I was rather surprised when I eventually came across the original image. No luck finding an image of these bags though; I suppose carrier bags are an especially ephemeral sort of ephemera.

  4. Of all places I never thought I would see a mention of that film! I first read of Death Bed in John Bowen’s column for Rue Morgue Magazine, Issue #92.

    While I have never seen it for myself (I often find myself mumbling “keep it classy, Bowen” as I read his sort of smarmy/trashy reviews)…now I feel I must track it down!

  5. AlyxL: I remember the Gallery Five panels being in the better class of home furnishing shops. I imagine some of them are quite collectable now.

    Mlle Ghoul: Not sure how eager I am to see Death Bed, I have a low threshold of tolerance for cheap horror films. When it comes to Beardsley in that kind of setting, Suspiria is more my thing.

  6. Thanks so much for clearing up a mystery after all these years.
    I have the Kay Nielsen print I brought in London back in the day.
    Always wondered who produced them and if there were others.

    Wish someone would start up printing them again.

  7. Hi Sander. Thanks for the tip, I’ve had your page about the drawings of Otto Verhagen bookmarked for some time, keep wishing there was more of his work around.

  8. Hi John, there is more of his work in the archives/museum depot/private collection. This spring I will publish a, printed article, on Beardsley’s Dutch followers. Text in Dutch but will contain some unseen artwork. If you want I can send you a, digital, copy. Please contact me at this emailadress.

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