At the fin de siècle intellectuals merged the Biblical figures of Judith and Salome into a single image of the quintessential femme fatale. Margarita Stocker argues in her book Judith: Sexual Warrior that the figure of Judith once represented resurrection and a passage from death into life. The sacrifice of her virginity and her decapitation of Holofernes ultimately brought life to her people. It was only Decadent aesthetics that recast her as a deadly image, blending her with Salome. And Bram Dijkstra, in Idols of Perversity, writes,

The story of Judith was popular among the intellectuals of the late nineteenth century, but the exploits of her biblical companion Salome became the true centerpiece of male masochistic fantasies. What better source for the fruitful conjunction of the period’s numerous libidinous fetishes than this virginal adolescent with a viraginous mother, a penchant for exotic dances, and a hunger for man’s holy head? (Dijkstra 379)

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


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

Stocker, Margarita. Judith: Sexual Warrior: Women and Power in Western Culture. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998.

Last modified 26 December 2006