The Eyes of Herod 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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The Eyes of Herod was one of a series of illustrations produced by Aubrey Beardsley for an Oscar Wilde play, titled Salome. A British version made use of these drawings, with a further portfolio of them released several years later.

Although the artist was afforded relative freedom to interpret the content in the manner that he wished, some alterations were later made because of the shocking nature of some of what he produced. Certain adult themes would be diluted in order to make the publication suitable for as wide an audience as possible. One example would be the addition of fig leafs to cover certain parts of the anatomy, a request which Beardsley reluctantly agreed to. Some artworks were even disgarded completely from the Salome book, but later appeared within a portfolio that drew together all of the artist's work on this project. Most examples of The Eyes of Herod that exist today within major art collections came from the later 1907 publication, rather than the original book. Beardsley had a very unique artistic style which makes all of these designs instantly recognisable as his own, and the themes are also consistent because of how they were designed to fit together in the same series.

The artist is believed to have produced sixteen drawings in total, with John Lane overseeing the publication of a portfolio at the turn of the century. Many prints were made from this design, some of which can be found in prestigious collections such as the Royal Academy and the V&A Museum in London, UK. Beardsley was himself a British artist, as was Oscar Wilde. The playwright originally delivered Salome in French before it was later translated into English for the British version which followed around three years later. The composition found within The Eyes of Herod features Salome directly in the centre of the artwork, with a long robe and elaborate headwear which features the same peacock feathers that Beardsley repeated in several artworks. Salome is found here staring down at Herod. There are also two small creatures known as putti, and they hold candlesticks. To the bottom left we find some considerable detail, with patterned elements sitting behond a couple of tall trees.

There were many great highlights from this Beardsley series, also including the likes of The Peacock Skirt, The Black Cape and The Climax. Some consider these illustrations to be amongst the best work from his entire career, and they certainly are some of the most famous drawings that he produced. The topic seemed suitable to the artist's style, and he oversaw sixteen drawings in total. Some were removed or amended in order to make the publication, but a later portfolio brought together all of these designs in a separate book. Beardsley worked with black and white lines throughout his career in a manner that produced striking imagery, and his success could only be achieved through a majestic creativity, even genius, in how he created form from just a few lines and details. His drawings featured many times alongside written texts and this provided him with a steady income as his reputation started to spread around the UK.