Saleeby’s Solomé offers a new perspective on a myth which had truly captured the imagination of the Decadent movement. The story had gained ground in Paris and London for its oriental feeling and elements of licentiousness; from Aubrey Beardsley’s illustrations of Oscar Wilde’s play, to the sensuous description of Gustave Moreau’s paintings in Huysmans 1884 novel A Rebours. At first glance, Solomé almost passes for a Vermeer-esque scene of domesticity, only after we come to know the subject of the painting do we realise that the empty dish is entirely devoid of any culinary purpose, prepared instead to receive the severed head of John the Baptist. Diaphanous gossamer sleeves enclose a subtle reference to the fabled ‘Dance of the Seven Veils’, yet there is a tenderness of expression which seems to overhaul the threatening European version of Salome, recasting the daughter of Herodias less as a temptress than as an object of affection.
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