Aubrey Beardsley, The Toilet of Salome, a design in pen and ink


British Museum

British Museum

This is a design for an illustration to the English edition of Oscar Wilde's notorious play Salome which was written in French and then translated into English by his friend Lord Alfred Douglas ('Bosie'). It caused a scandal. In 1895, Oscar Wilde was convicted of ‘gross indecency' after a famous court battle with Douglas' father, the Marquess of Queensberry. Beardsley, associated with Wilde because of these illustrations, was sacked as Art Editor of The Yellow Book, and was obliged to flee temporarily to France.

Beardsley's style is epitomized in the sparse but elegant economy of line, and the delicacy of detail. The lazy fall of Salome's cape and the disturbing perspective together create a sensuous atmosphere.

The bookshelf offers a library of required reading for the decadent aesthete, including Zola's Nana, Verlaine's Les Fêtes galantes, Apuleius' The Golden Ass, and an unnamed work by the Marquis de Sade.

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  • Title: Aubrey Beardsley, The Toilet of Salome, a design in pen and ink
  • Date Created: 1893/1893
  • Physical Dimensions: Height: 227.00mm; Width: 162.00mm
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: drawn
  • Registration number: 1919,0412.1
  • Producer: Drawn by Beardsley, Aubrey Vincent
  • Material: paper
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Bequeathed by Ross, Robert. Bequeathed through Art Fund


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