The American painter’s Ella Ferris Pell depiction of Salome differs from the male fin-de-siecle versions. Exhibited in Paris, Pell’s 1890 Salome, as both Dijkstra and Showalter point out, does not gaze at the viewer with a look of “crazed sexual hunger” (Dijkstra 392). The healthy young woman, evidently an artist’s model of flesh and bone, stands as the lone figure gazing downwardly. Her long flowing hair unbound, she stands in contrapposto holding the charger for the head of John the Baptist. The blood and gore of the male-depicted Salomes is entirely absent from Pell’s version. This Salome is rather the contemplative woman of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. She has more to do with Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s contemplative women than with the blood-thirsty, sexually-charged Salomes of Bonnaud, Moreau, and Beardsley. Thus, in a feminist way, Pell challenges the male image of the evil temptress. Nevertheless, Pell’s painting remained largely ignored by critics, which Dijkstra points to as a sign of the fin-de-siecle’s adamancy to establish Salome as the quintessential image of the femme fatale.

Salome, Judith, and Decapitated Men in the Fin de Siècle imagination

References

Dijkstra, Bram. Idols of Perversity: Fantasies of Feminine Evil in Fin-de-Siecle Culture. New York: Oxford University Press, 1986.


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Last modified 26 December 2006