Enter Herodias Aubrey Beardsley Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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Aubrey Beardsley created a set of drawings for a new edition of Salome in 1894, one of which was titled Enter Herodias. The set would again be published several years later in 1907 as a portfolio.

John Lane was a British publisher from around that period and he oversaw the production of this new edition of Salome, which was the first British edition to be made. The play was originally created in French by Oscar Wilde in 1891 before being translated and prepared for a British audience, with the text included alongside the work of British illustrator, Aubrey Beardsley. The visual arts had long been combined with literature in this manner, with other examples including the likes of William Blake and also Sandro Botticelli who had provided their talents as draughtsmen to go alongside the written word to create some truly charming and personal publications. Beardsley was well known to the publishing trade and his drawing style was both widely lauded but also deemed entirely suitable for a project such as this. A portfolio of these designs was released in 1907 which included all of the items submitted by Beardsley, including a number which were left out of the Salome publication, normally for being deemed to risque for the intended audience.

Enter Herodias would appear within the Salome publication, and one clear amendment which would have been requested by the publisher of the original book was the fig leaf which appears on the male to the right hand side, carefully placed to avoid revealing a part of his anatomy. Such amendments had been common place within the art world for many centuries, and still occur today even in our relatively open-minded era. One of the best examples of this would have to be Michelangelo's Last Judgement which is to be found along the altar wall of the Sistine Chapel. A major incursion was made by the host of this piece who forced the artist to avoid any controversial displays of the human body, which required altering a large number of figures. In his highly creative manner, Michelangelo would come up with all manner of different ways of achieving this, adding new clothing in some cases, re-positioning some figures and adding other objects to protect the modesty of those in this sprawling creation. Beardsley's requests would have been somewhat easier to achieve, but no less upsetting to the artist.

Beardsley has become a popular figure with art collectors and museum curators and there exist several copies of Enter Herodias in existence, including one at the V&A Museum in London, as well as another at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, USA. Elements to note about this drawing is the jester in the bottom right corner who is likely to have been a caricature of Oscar Wilde himself. There are also candles to the left of him which clearly have another connotation. These black and white block prints were produced on Japanese vellum. The Japanese region had long since been respected for its use of printing, and many techniques were incorporated into western art. In the centre of the piece we find a queen who is attended to by a servent. There are many references of an adult nature within this drawing which have been amended so that only those of the correct age can spot them.