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Henry Ossawa Tanner
about 1900
46 x 35 1/4 in.
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Jesse O. Tanner

Diaphanous folds of her gown skim Salomé's lush body, heightening her dangerous eroticism. The femme fatale was a frequent subject of art, literature, and opera at the end of the century. Under the spell of the symbolist aesthetic, emphasizing feelings and imagination over realism, Tanner chose a palette of moody, jeweled hues. The painting's strange, indeterminate space conjures up the sensual evil of a seductress whose dances so aroused King Herod that he presented her the head of John the Baptist.