Artibus et Historiae no. 69 (XXXV)2014, ISSN 0391-9064
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SARAH LIPPERT - Salomé to Medusa by Way of Narcissus: Moreau and Typological Conflation (pp. 233–266)
Although interpretations of Salomé in nineteenth-century scholarship abound, typically such studies focus on sensational aspects of the theme’s popularity, and re-hash routine, if relevant, interpretations. This study synthesises existing research, by considering studies of Moreau’s work that have received little scholarly attention, which show iconographic and typological conflations of the subject matter that have not been explored. Avoiding the clichéd interpretations of Salomé, this article demonstrates that her import to nineteenth-century artists and writers centred on her significance as a symbol of artistic rivalry, which was primarily kicked off in Moreau’s famous versions. Drawing from Ovidian and art-historical precedents, Moreau orchestrated a new identity for Salomé, overcoming her mortal limitations by conflating her with Narcissus and Medusa. Considering a sample of artistic responses to his work, this article demonstrates why such a conflation was necessary to meet Moreau’s artistic objectives, and how Moreau’s followers responded to his super-human version of the Biblical temptress.