Salome in painting and sculpture  

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The Biblical story of Salome has long been a favourite of painters, since it offers a chance to depict oriental splendour, semi-nude women, and exotic scenery under the auspices of a Biblical subject. Painters who have done notable representations of Salome include Titian, Henri Regnault, Georges Rochegrosse, Gustave Moreau, and Federico Beltran-Masses. Titian's version emphasizes the contrast between the innocent girlish face and the brutally severed head. Because of the maid by her side, this Titian painting is also considered to be Judith with the Head of Holofernes. Unlike Salome who goes nameless in the Christian bible, Judith is a Judeo-Christian mythical patriot whose story is perhaps less psychological and being a widow, may not be particularly girlish nor innocent in representations.

In Moreau's version the figure of Salome is emblematic of the femme fatale, a fashionable trope of fin-de-siecle decadence. In his 1884 novel À rebours Frenchman Joris-Karl Huysmans describes, in somewhat fevered terms, the depiction of Salome in Moreau's painting:

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. (Huysmans À rebours - Toni Bentley (2002) Sisters of Salome: 24)

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