Sunday, October 10, 2010

"Salome" by André Derain

This picture is so lyrical, particularly for a woodcut. It reminds me of the most voluptuous of Indian figural sculptures because here the artist has taken a rigid substance (wood, stone, or bronze) and carved into something curved and which implies soft surfaces and rapid yet delicate movements. This is unsurprising coming from Derain, one of the founders of Fauvism. Salome's hair and dress bunch and tumble back as her legs push off the ground and kick forward. One hand seems to hold the onlooker off as the other beckons. Bracelets and anklets seem to spin round, echoing the flurry of movement in the hair and dress.

One aspect of this image at first seemed distinctly unlike Fauvism to me: the restrained use of color. But while these colors are not as typically vivid as familiar Fauvist works, they are unnatural and expressive. Salome's intentions are cold, after all well-suited to the grey that dominates the figure and sharply pops out from the pitch black background.

The exaggeration of the nose and eyes with the curly, black line down the side of her jaw to me imply a mask, although there is no mention of Salome wearing a mask during her dance for King Herod, nor can I find any references to masks in cultural references to the Salome myth. Perhaps the curly line is simply a line of hair, and the indelicate, bird-like features are meant to signify the wicked intentions of the Biblical seductress.

I still read it as a mask. She seems a body playing a part - entertaining. Only a lovely, fast, and distracting surface appears for her audience. Her true depth remains unveiled.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting take on the mask theory. Perhaps she is also veiling the terrible price she must ask for her dance. Perhaps Salome had as little desire to be used by her mother as by Herod.