The Toilette of Salome A delicate lattice of black and white lines, Aubrey Beardsley's confrontational Venus at her Toilet reflects the artist's bold stylistic blend of Pre-Raphaelitism and his own biting societal critique of the Victorian era. The highly ornate Venus at her Toilet almost looses its content within Beardsley's intricate web of design. The elaborate patterning of points to the influence of William Morris' commercial designs. Similar to Morris' textile designs, Beardsley's illustration flows continuously throughout the composition space. What is more, Venus at her Table embodies the Pre-Raphaelite views of realism and emotive subject matter. Paying close attention to fine detail, Beardsley weaves his figures' hair and gowns seamlessly into the equally sumptuous background. Despite its lavishness, Venus at her table still maintains visual clarity through the photographic contrast of dark and light.

Initially Venus at her Toilet appears organic in nature, but after closer inspection Beardsley's vine-like lines form a coherent pictorial space. What is more, Beardsley's stylistic decadence serves as a masking device, which conceals the illustrations social agenda under the pretense of ornate frivolity. Venus at her Table portrays a scene of material extravagance, wherein the lavishness of the figures and material objects almost merge into an indistinguishable design. Thus, Beardsley's illustration ultimately acts as a societal comment on excessive consumerism and its potential convolute one's life.

Discussion Questions

1. In what ways does Beardsley's Venus at her Toilet rework PRB precepts of realism and emotionality?

2. How does Beardsley's s Venus at her Toilet and its depiction of women compare to that of PRB?

3. What are the stylistic parallels between Venus at her Toilet and Morris' design work?


Victorian Web Overview Aesthetes & Decadents Aubrey Beardsley

Last modified 4 December 2006