Sexual Fables

This article accompanies the fable
Life as Opera

Aubrey Beardsley and Salomé

Aubrey Beardsley illustrated Oscar Wilde's play Salomé: a tragedy in one act in 1894, although Wilde hated his illustrations as "too Japanese." They included the two below, "The Stomach Dance" and "The Climax."

Beardsley-The-Stomach-Dance Beardsley-The-Climax

Beardsley's most erotic illustrations, however, were for the privately printed edition of Aristophanes Lysistrata in 1896, which were inspired by Japanese shunga. This included these two hilarious classics shown below: "The Examination of the Herald" and "The Lacedaemonian Ambassadors." You may recall that in the story of Lysistrata, the heroine persuades the women of Greece to withhold sex until the men stop fighting (the Peloponnesian War). The immediate result is that many men are overburdened by large erections.

Beardsley-Lysistrata Beardsley-Lysistrata

It's a situation ripe for satire and Germaine Greer's 1972 updating of Aristophanes's Lysistrata can claim to keep the spirit of Beardsley alive.

You can see similar approach in the work of French illustrator, Martin van Maële, especially  La Grande Danse macabre des vifs (1905).

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