Surrealist pen and ink drawing of two figures, one is lying contorted on her back


There are various versions of the story of Salome (the Bible, the opera by Richard Strauss, the play by Oscar Wilde). The one that seems to conform most closely to Gerzso’s drawing of 1937 is from Salome (1896) by the Greek poet Constantine Cavafy, who is characterized by some critics as “neo-Pagan.” According to Cavafy, Salome instigated the death of John the Baptist as part of a futile effort to get the interest of “a young sophist who was indifferent to the charms of love.” When Salome presents to him the Baptist’s head, the sophist rejects it, remarking in jest “Dear Salome, I would have liked better to get your own head.” Taking the jest seriously, the hopelessly infatuated Salome lets herself be beheaded and her head is duly brought to the sophist, who, however, rejects it in disgust and turns back to studying the Dialogues of Plato.

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