Sustaining the Fin-de-Siècle Attack: A Diachronic Approach to Salomé’s Visual Paratext from Beardsley to Yamamoto

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Gerrard Carter

Abstract

Resembling Japanese print patterns, Aubrey Beardsley’s decadent and grotesque black and white illustrations illuminated Oscar Wilde’s radical tragedy, Salomé (1891), while simultaneously commenting on it. Beardsley’s Salomé illustrations were not mere embellishments conceived in a purely decorative form, but produced meanings by virtue of their contingent and intratextual relationships. Art, like language, can benefit from a corresponding semiotic process of analysis. For this reason, this study approaches Salomé’s illustrated edition from a diachronic perspective in order to explore its potentials and limitations. First and foremost, this paper elucidates the intrinsic ambiguity that resides in the visual aspects of Salomé’s original paratext before providing a diachronic analysis with a view to explain the subsequent diminishing of Salomé’s illustrated narrative over the following century. Furthermore, in order to demonstrate how Beardsley’s illustrations have inspired contemporary artists, this paper concludes with an examination of Japanese artist Takato Yamamoto’s 2005 illustrations of Salomé. From the 1894 English edition to the 2011 publication, the passage of time reveals how illustrators have abandoned Salomé’s early decadent aesthetics and departed from Beardsley’s skilful intratextual dialogue with Wilde’s text. On the other hand, Yamamoto seems to look back and draw on Beardsley’s controversial and troubling idea of beauty to provide a complementary artistic narrative.

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How to Cite
Carter, G. (2019). Sustaining the Fin-de-Siècle Attack: A Diachronic Approach to Salomé’s Visual Paratext from Beardsley to Yamamoto. Humanities Bulletin, 2(1), 197-220. Retrieved from https://www.journals.lapub.co.uk/index.php/HB/article/view/485
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