One-woman, countless inspirations: SALOME
It is truly rare to see the world of art, literature, theatre and music getting inspired by a woman presented in the Old and New Testaments. Figures like the Holy Mary or Mary Magdalene are mostly emphasized through paintings. I believe this happens for 2 reasons. First there was a large era that the church almost completely controlled the themes of the great artists thus creating a long line of paintings depicting the gracious figures of the Christian faith. Second, all those women in the Testaments were presented loyal, faithful but mostly inactive and patient. Where would literature and theatre find the sparkle and sizzle, which usually creates great and memorable stories? However, one woman has been the exception for centuries now. And her name? SALOME.
The young stepdaughter of Herod Antipas and daughter of Herodias who danced so magically that her stepfather told her to ask for whatever she desired. She, following the commands of her mother, asked the head of John the Baptist on a platter.
A cruel, young, foolish girl that is not even named in the New Testament, since she is the personification of lust and seduction, or at least is characterized as such in a book that pretty much presents every woman that had a voice as evil.
Of course, I am not implying that asking to behead someone is not a bad deed, but it definitely made her stand out through the female figures of the Testaments. The proof? Art of course.
A nameless girl inspired some of the greatest artists of all times just because she had character. Paintings, sculptures, theatre, literature, opera, poetry, ballet!
Painters who have done notable representations of Salome include Leonardo da Vinci followers Andrea Solario and Bernardino Luini, Lucas Cranach the Elder, Titian, Caravaggio, Georges Rochegrosse, Gustave Moreau, Lovis Corinth and Federico Beltran-Masses
Salome by Titian, c 1515, (Galleria Doria Pamphilj, Rome)
In this painting the great Renaissance master Titian depicts Salome creating such contrast. A young innocent face looking at a brutal spectacle.
Salome Dancing before Herod by Gustave Moreau
The French symbolist Gustave Moreau painted the famous dance of Salome dressing her all in jewelry and depicting a strong woman who is not punished for having a will. In literature Gustave Flaubert and Robert E. Howard present Salome from their own point of view giving her different characteristics which of course match also the time each writer gets inspired by her.
The great Oscar Wilde being always true to his style of writing retold the story of Salome as the story of a vengeful woman in love with John the Baptist, killing him because she could not have him. Aubrey Beardsley depicted scenes from Wilde’s play and produced his most celebrated work, the now iconic series of illustrations, for which the most famous of these illustrations is the floating femme fatal, Salome, holding the head of John the Baptist which she has just kissed.
German composer Richard Strauss, also composed Salome, an opera in one act. The opera was infamous at the time of release in 1891 for the seductive Dance of the Seven Veils. Beardsley, Wilde and Strauss leave the story of Herodias on the side by making their heroine Salome and giving her a voice, a will, and a strong character.
Numerous ballets have recreated the story of Salome and her dance and last but certainly not least in poetry the famous Greek poet Constantine Cavafy, one of the most important figures of Western poetry, tells his own story of the young girl through a more cynical tale.
So, truth be told, Salome's story is not of pure love, kindness but it is a rare story of an opinionated, femme fatal in a time when men were the only ones with a voice. And if the entire world of art were inspired by her; how could we not be too? Our founder Kellie Daniels gave her brand the beautiful name of her loving mother, Salome Victoria Hebert Matherne, and was always inspired by both the legend of Salome and the life of her incredible mother. The brand, SALOME, is a constant tribute to every strong woman who inspires & empowers other women to express themselves and have a voice.
BY EVA SAMARA