Friday, January 6, 2012

Molti Ritratti: Salome

Salome was quite the gal, as this Wikipedia entry indicates. Dancing, sexiness, murder and other factors contribute to rich grounds for artists to exploit. I was even about to use the work "beauty," in the last sentence but did not. That's because no one since her days has had any idea what she looked like. The best we have is the image on the coin shown below, and it isn't very inspiring.

This lack of information was never a barrier to artists who were handed subject matter to spare plus unlimited freedom to imagine her. Below are some examples of her depiction in approximate chronological order.


By Titian

By Caravaggio

By Henri Regnault

By Gustave Moreau

By Pierre Bonnaud

By Ella Ferris Pell

By Aubrey Beardsley

By Robert Henri

By Franz von Stuck

By Lovis Corinth

By Nelson Shanks

And which Salome has the most appeal? Beats me. I'll take any of them except, perhaps, the image from Beardsley (nice drawing that it is). And the one on the coin.


mike shupp said...

Interesting works; only the von Stuck piece really fails to pull me in (FWIW, I suppose the full version of the Moreau would be preferable, since that's what he painted, but this truncated version makes visible enormous detail that'd be ignored in the larger work. So: Good choice.)

Most moving: the Caravaggio, and -- despite it's modern look, despite the lack of an obvious John-the-Baptist referent -- the painting by Nelson Shanks. I was tempted at first to make a crack about knowing a girl who looked just like in the Venice section of Los Angeles; The more I look at this, however, the less glib I become. In part, I suspect, because there's a ton of symbolism in those scattered masks and cloths and litle statues, which I can't read directly but is yanking on little levers in my subconscious like a fruit machine addict in Vegas with 17 brand new rolls of dollar coins...

Donald Pittenger said...

Mike -- Not to mention the head of a (headless?) doll poking in the image from the right.

mike shupp said...

Nah, I saw that little head and discounted it. Yes, it's a John the Baptist referent _if_ you know the painting shows (a) Salome. But without the title, going on just what can be seen, the head doesn't have such significance; for all we know, it could just be part of a Michael Jackson figurine.

Also, it strikes me as a painting which is very carefully arranged, everything from the model's posture and expression to the sheen of the cloth on the back of the chair and the various knicknacks displayed about her. Using the little head as a JtB reference would seem a bit blatant.

My 2 (or 4 or 8 or even 16) cents. I gather Shanks himself takes pride in being a "realist" in painting; so it's more than likely he'd regard my thoughts as nonsense. It's always so sad when a careful, discriminating viewer is ridiculed by crass, ignorant artists!

(And you gotta admit, if that's Salome, Shanks is "a Philistine painter" by definition.)

Happy New Year.