Oscar Wilde’s “Salome”

The Kiss
Illust. for Salome
Aubrey Beardley 1894

“She is like a woman rising from a tomb. She is like a dead woman. One might fancy she was looking for dead things.” — Salome, by Oscar Wilde

This vision of Salome remains more or less intact to the present day. Exemplified in Oscar Wilde’s “Salome” of 1894, which was so iconic and archetypal that almost any version of Salome that has been done in the past hundred years is either a direct descendent — or a bastard child. Wilde explored the beauty of heightened biblical language to exquisite effect. The rhythm of the play reverberates long after the words were spoke. Oscar doesn¹t invent anything new; he merely draws on centuries of church repressed sex, expressed thru the pantomime of ritual assassinations. Especially poignant to the Victorian English, as they were the most socially repressed of all.

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Huysman on Gustave Moreau’s “Salome”

Gustave Moreau

Des Esseintes saw realized at last the Salome, weird and superhuman, he had dreamed of. 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 ice, the goddess of immortal Hysteria, the Curse of Beauty supreme above all other beauties by the cataleptic spasm that stirs the flesh and steels her muscles, ~a monstrous Beast of the Apocalypse, indifferent, irresponsible, insensible, poisoning, like Helen of Troy of the Classic fables, all who come near her, all who see her, all who touch her.

— Huysman waxes masochistically ecstatic over Gustave Moreau’s painting of Salome Joris-Karl Huysman c. 1884

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“Herodias” by Gustave Flaubert

by Paul Delaroche (1797 – 1856)

The girl depicted the frenzy of a love which demands satisfaction. She danced like the priestesses of the Indies, like the Nubian girls of the cataracts, like the bacchantes of Lydia. She twisted from side to side like a flower shaken by the wind. The jewels in her ears swung in the air, the silk on her back shimmerred in the light, and from her arms, her feet, and her clothes there shot out invisible sparks which set the men on fire. A harp sang, and the crowd answered it with cheers. Without bending her knees, she opened her legs and leant over so low that her chin touched the floor. And the nomads inured to abstinence, the Roman soldiers skilled in debauchery, the avaricious publicans, and the old priests soured by controversy all sat there with their nostrils distended, quivering with desire.

Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880), click here for the e-text (original in French).

Judith & Salome in Art

Herodias’s Revenge’s
Juan de Flandes c. 1496

During the latter renaissance (1500-1700) Judith and Salome (as well as a multitude of Lucretias) gave noble women of the period something to masquerade as. The quasi-religious portrait was an attempt to justify secular portraiture, but very quickly became a sort of charades for posterity, some of it quite cheeky. It is fascinating that women of the time would have wanted to be characterized by their descendants as the vixen clutching a severed head. Salome was a little less popular in this regard, as her motives were a bit less noble than that of Judith. Judith, however, exemplified the ultimate sacrifice, that of her virtue (both hymenally & that of her soul) for the sake of her tribe’s survival.
It wasn’t until the 19th century that the image of woman was sufficiently tarnished to be portrayed with a frequency that boggles. By the early 20th, Salome was a ready-made vamp that art, literature, and film gobbled up with gusto. Judith, her noble sacrifice eliciting barely a yawn from the over-indulged audiences, fading to barely a blip on the comparative religious studies.

The Cult of Salome

by Giampietrino c. 1510-30

The cult of Salome gained full speed during the Italian Renaissance. As artists searched for subjects other than the traditional, Salome offered herself up without a struggle. Instead of highlighting John’s tragedy, artists turned to the doe-eyed instrument of his peculiar demise for psychological exploration. True to their time, the answer they came up with was sex. What did Salome want? Sex. Not, of course, as the bible states: “For John had said unto Herod, It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother’s wife. Therefore Herodias had a quarrel against him, and would have killed him; but she could not.” The idea of revenge is tossed aside as soon as the artist imagines the dagger like flash in her eye. The leap is not hard to make. A pretty girl, clutching a silver charger with a wild man’s severed head upon it. Frequently smiling, always curious, Salome’s gaze is that of the insatiable virgin, who plots to rob man of his vitality through sex and sin. She is the unavoidable precipice that you would gladly step off of, but would vilify the next morning for luring you there.

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Salome, Daughter of Herodias

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 of 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 is not mentioned by name in the bible, other than as “the Daughter of Herodias.” The lurid, even by biblical standards, tale of a teenage girl dancing for her uncle/stepfather and demanding the head of a prophet in recompense for slander against her mother, has sparked the art of sublimation for centuries. It is Josephus who gives us her name, Salome:

“Herodias was married to Herod, the son of Herod the Great by Mariamme the daughter of Simon the high priest. They had a daughter Salome, after birth Herodias, taking it into her head to flout the way of our fathers, married Herod the Tetrarch, her husband’s brother by the same father, who was tetrarch of Galilee; to do this she parted from a living husband.” — Antiquities 18.5.3 136 Josephus, 60 C.E.

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Marie Antoinette

Wowie zowie! October 2006. Harsh.

Sofia Coppola’s eagerly awaited follow-up to ‘Lost in Translation’ is clearly no BBC yawner. Who else would set the trailer for an 18th-century biopic to New Order’s ‘Age of Consent’?

*snort!* We were listening to that album on the drive down to LA last month. Weeee! ♥ I love my BBC yawners though.
Dude. Look at this line-up!

Kirsten Dunst …. Marie-Antoinette
Jason Schwartzman …. Louis XVI
Rip Torn …. King Louis XV
Judy Davis …. Comtesse de Noailles
Asia Argento …. Madame du Barry
Marianne Faithfull …. Maria Theresia
Aurore Clément …. La duchesse de Chartres
Guillaume Gallienne …. Comte Vergennes
Clementine Poidatz …. Comtesse de Provence
Molly Shannon …. Anne Victoire
Steve Coogan …. Count Mercy d’Argenteau
Jamie Dornan …. Axel von Fersen

Rip Torn? Marianne Faithfull??? Oh boy!

I have a secret crush on Kirsten Dunst… So all ya’ll just shut up. Virgin Suicides and Dick and Drop Dead Gorgeous are some of my favorites.
Can’t wait to see Narnia and King Kong and Libertine, which has been pushed back for general release until JANUARY. Ugh! I need me some Wilmot!
Did I mention that I loved Pride & Prejudice? Hahhaa! So there! It was awesome. Keira Knightley’s modern face bugs me, but she is very good and fluid and spunky. MacFadyen is quite the gent, and I’m a huge fan anyway. I snuck into see it on opening day. At 1pm the theater was full! Great crowd to see it with, lots of Berkeley Austen fans so they were all laughin’ and cheerin’ at all the right moments. We could have been seeing Lizzie & Jane’s Excellent Adventure for all they cared! And then… at the end… when Mr. Bennet is coming to terms with giving away his Lizzie I noticed all the men in the audience were sniffling. YAY! So awesome. But really, brilliant film. Very vibrant and witty and gorgeous. Costumes were FAB. Hair was messy. Judi Dench was imperious. Fantastic.
The open shirt bit at the end with Darcy emerging from the dewy morning mist was a bit… Brontësque? Is that a word? But gave it more passion than Austen’s “please sign on the dotted line” endings ^_^

Happy Bastille Day *cough*

(k, so I’m workin’ late and didn’t get these posted yesterday. meh.)

And this, my friends, is why we love glass eyes:

Just look at ’em glow.
So I’ve missed out holding my Bastille Day Picnic for a couple years. Poop! I’ll post the pix from um… 2001? Eep! Long time ago. Before the Big Dark fell.

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La Casa Updates

Weee! We spent last Saturday painting La Casa Formica. The outside is the same green we used for all my bookcases, so the house will gel really well with my living room. And the shingles are raspberry pink! Weee! We spraypainted all the trim and windows white and gave the inards a primer coat. I’ve got a TON of fabu papers now, it will be hard to narrow it down to just four. Definately the circus paper and poodles though. Gotta have.
Still to do: Putting white trim and gingerbread around the roof and shingles. Insert gothic windows from My Scene set into back top floor as well as the spiral staircase. The roof is going to be a roof garden with cross-buck railing and lots of topiary and birdbaths. Heeee. Also, I need 10″ cheap greek statues! Any good ideas, please let me know. We need to hit up the greek store in SF soon. Um, wallpaper and painting. There is lots of decorating to do! Aaagh!
Click below for bloated gif of the Dr. Stretch N. Pull’s Torture Chamber. We have a real nice movie of it, but that was 10 megs! I don’t think I can post it. Poo.

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I am so going to be the crazy halloween lady who lives down the street.

Dr. Stretch N. Pull’s Torture Factory

Brand New 2004
Lemax Dr. Stretch N. Pull’s Torture Factory
Features Include:
Turning slowly on the wheel of torture
A painful stretch on the torture rack
Guillotine rises and falls (this is what sold me, of course)
Iron gate rises to reveal the revolving wheel of torture
Skull’s eyes glow an eerie green
Ouch! A sharp ending in the coffin of nails
Spooky gears and saw blades revolve

Now that I have a leetle cottage with a wee front yard and an even tinier porch, I can decorate like mad. Mr. Kallisti was pretty thrilled with this one even. Must. buy. now. before they’re all out of stock. So funny, it is freakin’ July and Michaels has gotten all their Spooky Town on the shelf already.
Also, Department 56 is introducing “Dicken’s All Hallows Eve” collection with less of a goofy halloween feel. I’ll take the hearse, thank you.