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Salome at the Prison

Gustave Moreauc. 1873-76

The National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo

The National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo

When John the Baptist criticized the marriage of King Herod of Judea to Herodias, the wife of his own brother, he was jailed. Herod vacillated about executing him, but the queen was adamant, and used the occasion of the king's birthday to further her plans. She had her daughter Salome dance at the king's birthday party, and ask as a favor for the head of the beautiful youth, John the Baptist. In the 19th century, the famous tale of the head of John the Baptist came to be interpreted differently, with Salome herself seeking his head, and thus Salome was transformed into the archetypal fin-de-siècle femme fatale who leads men to their downfall. Moreau was a painter who accorded Salome herself with the evil female power to destroy the saint, and Moreau's images of Salome exerted major influence on the arts and literature of the fin-de-siècle period, including the works of Oscar Wilde. Around 1870 Moreau contemplated creating a series of works relating to the life of John the Baptist, which resulted in two scenes, Salome dancing and the saint's severed head. This painting, Salome at the Prison, is a variant of the severed head scenes. Salome stands in front of the pillar that vertically divides this composition. Her head is bowed, her gaze focused on the tray at her feet, soon to bear the head of John the Baptist. A stairwell and prison equipment can be seen next to the pillar, bathed in a Rembrandtesque light, while to left rear can be seen the instant of John's beheading. Overall the composition is reminiscent of St Margaret, a painting created in 1873 for the daughter of Moreau's painter friend, Eugène Fromentin. (Source: Masterpieces of the National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo, 2009, cat. no. 93)

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Details

  • Title: Salome at the Prison
  • Date Created: c. 1873-76
  • Location Created: France
  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings: Signed lower right: Gustave Moreau; Title and signature on the back of the canvas: Salomé-Gustave Moreau-
  • Provenance: Brame, 1885; Berne-Bellecour; Esnault-Pelterie; Auc. Esnault-Pelterie, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, March 5, 1912, no. 46, repr.; Kojiro Matsukata; Sequestered by the French Government, 1944; Returned to Japan, 1959.
  • Physical Dimensions: w320 x h400 mm
  • Painter: Gustave Moreau
  • Object title (Japanese): 牢獄のサロメ
  • Object notes (Japanese): ヨルダン川でイエスに洗礼を授けたヨハネは、ユダヤの王へロデが兄弟の妻へロデアを娶ったことを非難して牢に繋がれた。王は処刑をためらっていたが、王妃は納まらず、王の誕生日に連れ娘のサロメが舞を披露したのを機に、その褒美としてこの聖者の首を求めさせた。名高いこのヨハネ斬首の逸話は、19世紀になってサロメ自身にヨハネの首を求める動機があったと解釈され、サロメは男性を破滅へと導く世紀末のファム・ファタルの代表となっていく。モローもまた、このユダヤの王女自身に、聖なる者を打ち負かそうとする邪悪な女性の力を仮託した画家のひとりであり、そのサロメ像は、オスカー・ワイルドを始めとする世紀末の文学や美術に多大な影響をもたらした。1870年頃、モローは洗礼者ヨハネの生涯に基づく複数の場面を連作として構想していたが、それはやがてサロメの舞踏と聖者の斬首という二つ独立した場面へと収斂していった。《牢獄のサロメ》は、そうしたヨハネ斬首のヴァリアントの一つである。空間を縦に仕切る中央の柱にもたれるようにしてサロメは立っている。うつむいたその視線の先には、これから首が載せられる筈の盆がある。柱の右手には、上へ昇る階段と刑具がレンブラント風の光の中に浮かび上がり、左奥では、今まさにヨハネの首が打ち落とされようとしている。全体の構図は、モローが1873年に友人の画家ウジェーヌ・フロマンタンの娘のために描いた《聖マルグリット》と酷似している。(出典: 国立西洋美術館名作選. 東京, 国立西洋美術館, 2006. cat. no. 93)
  • Artist Name (Japanese): モロー、ギュスターヴ
  • Type: Paintings
  • Rights: Matsukata Collection, http://www.nmwa.go.jp/en/information/privacy.html
  • External Link: The National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo
  • Medium: Oil on canvas

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