salome 11

Lucas Cranach

“And when the daughter of the said Herodias came in, and danced, and pleased Herod and them that sat with him, the king said unto the damsel, Ask me whatsoever thou wilt, and I will give it thee. And he swore unto her, Whatsoever thou shalt ask of me, I will give it thee, unto the half of my kingdom. And she went forth, and said unto her mother, What shall I ask? And she said, The head of John the Baptist.” [Mark 6:22-25]

salome 13

Benozzo Gozzoli, 1461–1462

salome 9

Lucas van Leyden, ca. 1550–1600

salome 14

Filippo Lippi, 1460–1464

salome 8

Philips Galle, 1564

salome 7

Albertus Clouwet, 1646–1679

salome 6

Anonymous, 1630–1656

salome 5

Jacob Cornelisz. van Oostsanen, 1524

salome 4

Caravaggio, 1609

salome 3

Caravaggio, 1607

No longer was she merely the dancing girl who extorts a cry of lust and concupiscence from an old man by the lascivious contortions of her body; who breaks the will, masters the mind of a King by the spectacle of her quivering bosoms, heaving belly and tossing thighs, she was now revealed in a sense as the symbolic incarnation of world-old Vice, the goddess of immortal Hysteria, the Curse of Beauty supreme above all other beauties by the cataleptic spasm that stirs her flesh and steels her muscles–a monstrous Beast of the Apocalypse, indifferent, irresponsible, insensible, poisoning.

–Joris-Karl Huysmans, Against the Grain

salome 2

Gustave Moreau, 1876

salome 1Gustave Moreau, 1876

salome 16

Aubrey Beardsley, 1893

SALOME: How the sweet is the air here! I can breathe here! Within there are Jews from Jerusalem who are tearing each other in pieces over their foolish ceremonies, and barbarians who drink and drink and spill their wine on the pavement, and Greeks from Smyrna with painted eyes and painted cheeks, and frizzed hair curled in columns, and Egyptians silent and subtle, with long nails of jade and russet cloaks, and Romans brutal and coarse, with their uncouth jargon. Ah! How I hate the Romans! They are rough and common, and they give themselves the airs of noble lords.

–Oscar Wilde, Salomé: A Play, 1891

salome 15

Henri Regnault, 1870

salome 10Pierre Bonnaud, date unknown

Taking note of the differences in the evolution of erotic dancing over the last 90 years, first Nazamova in the film adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s Salome by Charles Bryant (1923):

Rita Hayworth in Salome (1953):

Finally, our own colossus of the dance, Beyoncé, in Single Ladies (Put A Ring on It). Unfortunately the Nazamova performance was silent and so at a disadvantage to Beyoncé’s. Rita also suffers by comparison, being constrained by the lackluster music but she still manages to invest the dance with some of that famous American energy that Nazamova’s performance lacks. We’re all waiting for some trendsetting Hollywood innovator to give us a modern Salome, with  Beyoncé delivering a performance that leaves nothing to the imagination (Baz Luhrmann, you listening?).

Speaking of the imagination, it’s interesting to see how the deeply imagined painting of the 15th century becomes more  mannered and obvious with  Caravaggio in the 17th century. By the 19th century, even Gustave Moreau whose paintings incorporate exotic elements still feels contrive and realistic. But he’s still attempting to avoid capitulation to the stiff academic showpieces of Regnault and Bonnaud.

Hopefully the new version of Salome can drop the antique prose of Oscar Wilde and consider something more relevant to the times in which we live, something along the lines of the lyrics to Single Ladies (Put A Ring on It):

Up in the club, we just broke up
I’m doing my own little thing
You decided to dip but now you wanna trip
Cause another brother noticed me
I’m up on him, he up on me
don’t pay him any attention
Cause I cried my tears, for three good years
Ya can’t be mad at me

Cause if you liked it then you should have put a ring on it
If you liked it then you should’ve put a ring on it
Don’t be mad once you see that he want it
If you liked it then you should’ve put a ring on it

Wuh uh oh uh uh oh oh uh oh uh uh oh
Wuh uh oh uh uh oh oh uh oh uh uh oh

The last lines should be delivered by the head of John the Baptist Reanimator-style!

The head of John the Baptist should naturally be played by Johnny Depp. Personally, I think this is the role Johnny was born to play!

About trueoutsider

I'm an artist.
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2 Responses to Salome

  1. I just viewed, for the first time, Andrea del Sarto’s fresco cycle of John the Baptist at Il Chiostro dello Scalzo in Florence. It was breathtaking. Thank you for your wonderful selections, especially the Lucas Cranach and the Fra Filippo Lippi, and for your terrific commentary.

  2. trueoutsider says:

    Thanks, Margaret. And thanks for mentioning the del Sarto frescoes, which I’ve never seen, since they were undergoing restoration during my trips to Florence

    Here’s a blog I just ran across that has some information about and photos of them:

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