Thesis

Gustave Moreau's Salome: images of the femme fatale in nineteenth-century art

Depictions of the femme fatale, the dangerous and seductive woman, have been around for centuries. Various artistic versions of her since the second millennium, such as those of the goddess Astarte and the biblical Salome, represent her as at once beautiful and gruesome, alluring and deadly. Gustave Moreau's representations of Salome represent an important focal point of nineteenth-century depictions of the femme fatale. Moreau's exoticized, sexualized renditions make for a fascinating study. In this thesis, I argue that Moreau's depictions can be traced to Orientalist as well as masculinist biases inherent in nineteenth-century European culture and society. However, compared to other female cults that flourished around the same time- the household nun, and the invalid Moreau's Salome appears powerful and dynamic. Though he never meant to portray her as a positive icon, his depictions still manage to convey a powerful image in the guise of Salome.

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