Wood engraving by the Dalziel Brothers
6 7/8 x 4 5/8 inches
Illustration for The Cornhill Magazine, September 1866, facing p.331.
An erotic design which illustrates Swinburne’s meditation on Cleopatra as femme fatale. Sandys literally mirrors the text, reproducing many of its details while also inventing the background figures and the exotic trappings of leopard-skin, hieroglyphic frieze and costumes. Superbly drawn, the illustration typifies the artist’s capacity to unite antiquarian exactitude with a languorous and menacing atmosphere. Heavily influenced by the neo-classicism of the 1860s – especially the paintings of Frederick Leighton – the image also reflects the contemporary taste for Japanese design. Eclectic in its sources but presenting no sense of aesthetic strain, it epitomizes the Aestheticism of the 1860s and prefigures the Decadence of the Nineties.
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