His Most Famous Illustration (The Peacock Skirt) – Aubrey Beardsley

English illustrator, caricaturist, and author Aubrey Vincent Beardsley (1872- 1898) was born in Brighton, Menton, France on August 21, 1872. The frontrunner of ‘Aestheticism’ and ‘Art Nouveau,’ Aubrey’s accentuation for erotic components is displayed in many of his drawings. The most daring and audacious representation could be seen in his famous illustrations Lysistrata, and Salome, especially “The Peacock Skirt.”

Beardsley’s art styles were phased, differentiated by his unique signatures, dedicated to each phase. For example, beginning with leaving artworks unsigned, the subsequent six years carried his peculiar signatures, while in the year 1891 and 1892, he accustomed his work with his initials A.V.B. Aubrey Beardsley belonged to the group of artists called ‘Art Nouveau.’ ‘Art Nouveau’ was a manner of art and architecture that reached its popularity in the twentieth century. The word ‘Art Nouveau’ is a French word, which means ‘New Art.’ ‘Art Nouveau’ usually exhibited dark and villainous pictures. The main theme of Aubrey Beardsley’s later works however, were erotic illustrations inspired by the Japanese ‘shunga’ (love making techniques, positions, heterosexual or homosexual behavior, and possibilities), history, and mythology. Aubrey Beardsley effected numerous illustrations for the magazines, and books as well. His most famous illustration was “The Peacock Skirt” for Oscar Wilde’s play ‘Salome.’

Oscar Wilde was a close and a beloved friend of Beardsley. Aubrey procreated “The Peacock Skirt” in 1894. The play Salome was first published in 1893 in French and the next year in English, to be performed eventually in Paris in 1896. In this illustration, the beautiful Salome, the daughter of Herod and Herodias, tries to lure the Syrian Captain of the guard. She uses her beauty for this act, so that the Captain can release the prisoner John the Baptist. At the end of the play, Salome kisses John’s head. As per the renowned myth, John the Baptist does not accept Salome’s love. Therefore, Salome uses her beauty and power to get John the Baptist executed.

“The Peacock Skirt” was a black and white illustration, created using pen and ink. This illustration was inspired from one of the works of James McNeil Whistler ‘The Princess from the Land of Porcelain.’ The black and white lines resembled the style commonly used by the Japanese artists. In this illustration, Salome and the Syrian Captain of the guard are exhibited facing each other. The image on the right side is wearing a long and full sleeves wrapper. The image on the left side of the illustration has his hair adorned with the legions of peacock feathers. He is wearing heavily embroidered apparel on his back. The embroidery is confined literally to the lowermost section of the apparel. On the extreme left side, a peacock’s pattern is also manifested.