By: Dominique Mills, Seraphin Gallery Intern
Seraphin Gallery has recently acquired Salomé dansant pour Hérode by Pablo Picasso. This framed etching was created in 1971 just two years before Picasso’s death at the age of 91. The piece is part of a substantial collection of late etchings, referred to as Series 156 and known as Suite 347, named for the number of sheets it contains.
Salomé depicts a nude female dancing for a seated male figure dressed in full regalia. In a sense, Salomé’s dancing is a fantasy created by Picasso which he experiences through the gaze of Hérode. The artist directs the viewer’s eye throughout this intimate moment. Leading us through the gaze of Hérode to Salomé’s face, winding down to her genitals then circling back to Hérode. Salomé’s body twists and turns as Hérode sits watching with one eye faced towards Salomé and the other towards the viewer balanced within the frame against the heavy, still form of Hérode. Where Hérode is solid, Salomé is fluid.
Series 156 explored various themes with an interest in theatre, voyeurism and the female nude. In these he is more of a spectator than a participator. In his own words, he says, “I spend hour after hour while I draw, observing my creatures and thinking about the mad things they’re up to; basically, it’s my way of writing fiction.” At the time, Series 156 was created, critics dismissed the work as the ramblings of an artist that was out of touch and past his prime. In fact, the use of sex and nudity caused major controversy as the suite was censored during the first two showings - first in Paris and then in Chicago.
Picasso was nonetheless a pioneer of numerous styles such as Symbolism, Neo-classism, among others. However, it was Cubism for which he is most known. The influence of cubism on modern art is equivalent to the rediscovering of the human body and three-dimensional form on a two-dimensional plane.
Other editions of Salomé dansant pour Hérode and Series 156 are included in the public collections of the MOMA, the Picasso Museum in Spain, the Art Institute of Chicago, National Library of Paris, Peter Ludwig de Colonia Museum, and Gottfried Keller Stiftung of Switzerland among others.