Tailpiece by Aubrey Beardsley, 1872-1898. 1894. From Oscar Wilde’s Salome.

The tailpiece beautifully epitomizes Beardsley's illustrations for Wilde's play: in addition to the emblem with which the artist signs his works, we have two grotesques, the satyr and the harlequin or clown, who lay to rest a beautiful nude woman inside a decorated powder box with an ornate-handled powder puff beside it, thereby touching upon the Decadent's emphasize upon cosmetics that Max Beerbohm mocked in "A Defence of Cosmetics." Putting the woman — Salome herself? — to bed (or in a coffin) also echoes Thackeray's mention of putting his characters away once Vanity Fair has ended. — George P. Landow

Last modified 22 December 2020