Max Klinger’s New Salomé


The New Salomé (1887–1888) by Max Klinger.

The German Symbolist Max Klinger (1857–1920) is celebrated today for the etchings which comprise his Ein Handschuh (A Glove) series, ten prints that in their curious details and dream-like quality prefigure Surrealism and Giorgio de Chirico’s “metaphysical” paintings. During his life Klinger was highly regarded for his sculpture as well as his etchings: his Beethoven was a centrepiece of the Secession building in Vienna in 1902. His New Salomé is one of the handful of Klinger works at the Google Art Project where I still feel we ought to be able to view sculpture in the round. I’ve seen many photos of this piece before but hadn’t realised until now that the eyes were…what? Rubies? Amber? Whatever they are, their fiery cast ensures that his imperious female sits unequivocally with the Evil Women that proliferated in the late 19th century.


Salomé (c.1910) by Julio Borrell Pla.

Klinger’s sculpture may have been fashionably misogynist but it was at least a serious piece of art. Twenty years later the Salomé theme had devolved to little more than titillating exotica, as with this vaporous painting by Julio Borrell Pla which I hadn’t come across before. The last gasp of this exhausted trend is William Dieterle’s 1953 film in which Rita Hayworth plays Herod’s daughter as all titillation and little else.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The Salomé archive

Lindsay Kemp’s Salomé


Fragments are all you get with this one, unfortunately, but how tantalising they are. Lindsay Kemp’s 1975 stage production of Oscar Wilde’s play was probably the queerest there’s been to date, with Kemp himself playing Herod’s doomed daughter under a heap of silks and feathers. These stills from a sequence of Super-8 shots of the performance arrive courtesy of Nendie Pinto-Duchinsky, director of the forthcoming Kemp documentary Lindsay Kemp’s Last Dance, a film whose title echoes Ken Russell’s film of the Wilde play. The connections circulate wildly (so to speak) around Kemp’s production: prior to this performance Kemp had acted for Ken Russell, while two of the other actors went on to work with Derek Jarman (as did Kemp). John the Baptist (above) was played by David Haughton who appeared as Ariel in Jarman’s Jubilee; Jack Birkett’s grinning features (bottom, right) appear in many of Jarman’s films. All the more reason to wish these clips were longer.

The Kemp documentary YouTube channel has a few more items related to Kemp’s stage work, notably another tantalising sequence of stills from Flowers (1974), an adaptation of Genet’s Our Lady of the Flowers that also featured Haughton and Birkett.

Update: Thanks to Suzanne in the comments for pointing to her video which includes further film moments including Salomé performing with a live snake à la Salammbô.




Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The Salomé archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
Mister Jarman, Mister Moore and Doctor Dee
Saint Genet

Richard Bruce Nugent’s Salomé


Untitled (Salomé, no date).

I was looking for work by the artist, Richard Bruce Nugent (1906–1987), not more Salomé illustrations so this was a surprise discovery. Nugent was an American writer, illustrator and painter who was friends in the 1920s with key figures in the Harlem Renaissance such as Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston. Unlike Hughes, whose sexuality has been disputed for years, Nugent was openly gay at a time when such a stance carried considerable risks. According to the Nugent website he “stood for thirty years as the only African-American writer willing clearly to indicate his homosexuality in print.” That site hosts these pictures in a number of gallery pages which include some rather fine (and very gymnastic) erotic drawings. Among the writings there’s a piece entitled Slender Length of Beauty that dates from the same period as the picture below, a very Wildean retelling of the Salomé story which includes a character named after that favourite figure of Uranian myth, Narcissus.


Untitled (John the Baptist? 1930).

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The gay artists archive
The Salomé archive