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Inside a palace, before a king and queen on a throne, a woman stands pointing at a vision of a disembodied head

At left, a young fair skinned woman with long wavy brown hair stands facing us, wearing only an ornate crown and jewels, a richly embroidered open robe around her shoulders. With a leopard at her feet, she points her right foot toward us, and with her left arm points upward to the right. At center, ringed by a radiant halo, the head of a bearded man floats in profile in mid-air, blood streaming down from its neck. A king and a queen sit behind her, looking on from their thrones, while a guard stands at right, blood dripping from his halberd.

Gallery Text

Seduced by the erotic dancing of his stepdaughter, Salome, the biblical ruler Herod promised to grant her a wish. Prompted by her mother, Herodias, whose marriage to Herod had been denounced by John the Baptist, Salome requested the saint’s head on a platter. In Moreau’s ornate vision, the dancer appears to have conjured the head of the ascetic prophet, whose radiance overshadows her richly dressed form. The psychologically and narratively ambiguous scene is enacted in front of the enthroned king and his wife as well as the executioner, his sword still wet with blood. A version of this painting was described by French writer Joris-Karl Huysmans in his decadent novel of 1884, À rebours (Against Nature). Huysmans, like many late 19th-century writers and artists, considered Salome the ultimate example of a femme fatale: "[S]he awakened more energetically the lethargic senses of man, she bewitched and tamed his will more confidently with her charm, that of a large venereal flower, grown in hotbeds of sacrilege, raised in impious greenhouses."

Identification and Creation

Object Number
Gustave Moreau, French (Paris 1826 - 1898 Paris)
The Apparition
Work Type
Persistent Link

Physical Descriptions

Oil on canvas
55.9 x 46.7 cm (22 x 18 3/8 in.)
frame: 69.8 x 60.2 cm (27 1/2 x 23 11/16 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • Signed: l.l.: -Gustave Moreau-


Recorded Ownership History
Gustave Moreau, sold; to Gustave Druflé, 1877. [Georges Bernheim]. [Galerie Brame et Lorenceau, Paris, no. 38 as "L'Apparition [Salome dansant"], sold; to Tauber[t], Paris, France, 1912, sold; to Grenville L. Winthrop, New York, NY, 1930 [through Martin Birnbaum], bequest; to Fogg Art Museum, 1943.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Bequest of Grenville L. Winthrop
Accession Year
Object Number
European and American Art


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Publication History

  • Ary Renan, Gustave Moreau, Gazette des Beaux-Arts (Paris, France, 1900)
  • Sven Sandström, Le Monde Imaginaire d'Odilon Redon (London, England, 1955), repr. p. 50, fig. 39
  • John Canaday, Mainstreams of Modern Art, Henry Holt and Co. (New York, NY, 1959), repr. fig. 473
  • H. Harvard Arnason, History of Modern Art: painting, sculpture, architecture, Harry N. Abrams, Inc. (New York, NY, 1968), repr. p. 108
  • Dorothy W. Gillerman, ed., Grenville L. Winthrop: Retrospective for a Collector, exh. cat., Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, 1969), no. 90, repr.
  • Jeffrey Meyers, "Huysmans and Gustave Moreau", Apollo (January 1974), vol. C, p. 44
  • Pierre-Louis Mathieu, Gustave Moreau: with a catalogue of the finished paintings watercolors, and drawings, New York Graphic Society (Boston, MA, 1976), p. 128; repr. no. 160, p. 323
  • John Canaday, Mainstreams of Modern Art [2nd ed.], Holt, Rinehart & Winston (New York, NY, 1981), repr. in b/w no. 436, p. 381
  • A.M. Hammacher, Phantoms of the Imagination: Fantasy in Art and Literature from Blake to Dali, Harry N. Abrams, Inc. (New York, NY, 1981), repr. in b/w no. 71
  • Virginia M. Allen, The Femme Fatale: Erotic Icon, Whitston Publishing Co (Troy, NY, 1983), repr. b/w fig. 37, text p. 159
  • Michael P. Mezzatesta, Henri Matisse Sculptor/Painter: A Formal Analysis of Selected Works, Kimbell Art Museum (Fort Worth, TX, 1984), repr. b/w fig. 1, p. 6
  • Andrée Hayum, The Isenheim Altarpiece: God's Medicine and the Painter's Vision, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ, 1989), repr. in b/w fig. 78, p. 133
  • Edgar Peters Bowron, European Paintings Before 1900 in the Fogg Art Museum: A Summary Catalogue including Paintings in the Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 1990), p. 121; repr. as no. 320
  • H. W. Janson and Anthony F. Janson, History of Art [4th ed.], Harry N. Abrams, Inc. (New York, NY, 1991), repr. in color vol. II, fig. 953, p. 691
  • Pierre-Louis Mathieu, Tout l'oeuvre peint de Gustave Moreau, Flammarion (Paris, France, 1991), no. 187, p. 98
  • Geneviève Lacambre, Gustave Moreau: Maître Sorcier, Réunion des Musées Nationaux (Paris, France, 1997), pp. 57, 58, 62, 70
  • Masterpieces of world art : Fogg Art Museum, Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Busch-Reisinger Museum, 1997
  • Pierre-Louis Mathieu, Gustave Moreau: Monographie et nouveau catalogue de l'oeuvre achevé, ACR Édition (Paris, France, 1998), no. 187, p. 332, repr.
  • Geneviève Lacambre, Gustave Moreau: between Epic and Dream, exh. cat., The Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago, IL, 1999), p. 267
  • Geneviève Lacambre, Gustave Moreau: Magic and Symbols, Harry N. Abrams, Inc. (New York, NY, 1999), pp. 57, 58, 62, 70
  • Chikashi Kitazaki and Mina Oya, ed., Between Reality and Dreams: Nineteenth Century British and French Art from the Winthrop Collection of the Fogg Art Museum, exh. cat., National Museum of Western Art (Ueno, 2002), pp. 120-121, cat. #26, repr.; repr. p. 44 as fig. 17
  • Stephan Wolohojian, ed., A Private Passion: 19th-Century Paintings and Drawings from the Grenville L. Winthrop Collection, Harvard University, exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Yale University Press (U.S.) (New York, 2003), no. 95, pp. 240-242, repr. in color
  • Christopher Riopelle, Harvard's Winthrop Collection: Nineteenth-Century Paintings and Drawings from the Grenville L. Winthrop Collection, exh. cat., National Gallery Company Limited (London, 2003), p. 22, cat. 9, ill.
  • Stephan Wolohojian, Ingres, Burne-Jones, Whistler, Renoir... La Collection Grenville L. Winthrop, exh. cat., Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon and Réunion des Musées Nationaux (Paris, France, 2003), no. 95, pp. 251-252, repr. in color
  • H. Harvard Arnason, History of Modern Art: Painting, Sculpture, Architecture, Photography, Prentice Hall (Upper Saddle River, NJ, 2004), p. 56, repr. as fig. 3.12
  • Jodi Hauptman, "Beyond the Visible", exh. cat., The Museum of Modern Art (New York, NY, 2005), p. 44, repr. in color as fig. 22
  • Shireen Malik, "'She freed and floated on the air:' Salome and Her Dance of the Seven Veils", ed. Jennifer Heath (Berkeley, 2008), p. 139, fig. 8.1
  • H. Harvard Arnason and Elizabeth Mansfield, History of Modern Art: Painting, Sculpture, Architecture, Photography, Pearson Education, Inc. (Upper Saddle River, NJ, 2013), repr. as fig. 3.10 on p.51
  • Helen M. Greenwald, "'Salome' in the fin-de-siècle Imagination", Boston Symphony Orchestra (Boston, 2014), pp. 19-25, repr. in color p. 19
  • Christie McDonald, "I am [not] a painting: how Chardin and Moreau dialogue in Proust's writing", ed. Christie McDonald and François Proulx, Cambridge University Press (Cambridge, 2015), p. 50, fig. 4.5
  • Else Marie Bukdahl, The Recurrent Actuality of the Baroque, Controluce (Nardò, 2017), pp. 85-87, repr. p. 86 as fig. 20
  • Debra J. DeWitte, Ralph M. Larmann, and M. Kathryn Shields, Gateways to Arts, Thames & Hudson (New York, 2018), pp. 517-518; repr. as fig. 3.8.21 on p. 518
  • Gustave Moreau (Tokyo, 2019), p. 26, repr.
  • Amanda Donnan, Srijon Chowdhury: Same Old Song, exh. cat., Frye Art Museum (Seattle, 2022), pp. 21-22, repr. p. 22 as fig. 7
  • Camran Mani and Cecilia Zhou, ed., A Collection of Perspectives: Ho Family Student Guides at the Harvard Art Museums, Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, 2023), pp. 38-39, repr. p. 39

Exhibition History

  • Moreau and Monticelli, Busch-Reisinger Museum, Cambridge, 05/13/1960 - 06/08/1960
  • Grenville L. Winthrop: Retrospective for a Collector, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 01/23/1969 - 03/31/1969
  • Pre-Raphaelite and Early French Symbolist Art in the Fogg Collections, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 01/16/1973 - 02/25/1973
  • Master Paintings from the Fogg Collection, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 04/13/1977 - 08/31/1977
  • Masterpieces of European Art, Busch-Reisinger Museum, Cambridge, 06/22/1985 - 09/15/1985
  • Sublimations: Art and Sensuality in the 19th Century, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 07/13/1996 - 07/21/2002
  • Between Reality and Dreams: Nineteenth Century British and French Art from the Winthrop Collection of the Fogg Art Museum, National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo, 09/14/2002 - 12/08/2002
  • A Private Passion: 19th-Century Paintings and Drawings from the Grenville L. Winthrop Collection, Harvard University, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon, Lyon, 03/15/2003 - 05/26/2003; National Gallery, London, 06/25/2003 - 09/14/2003; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 10/23/2003 - 01/25/2004
  • For Students of Art and Lovers of Beauty: Highlights from the Collection of Grenville L. Winthrop, Harvard University Art Museums, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 04/16/2004
  • Ancient to Modern, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 01/31/2012 - 06/01/2013
  • 32Q: 2120 19th Century, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 06/24/2024

Subjects and Contexts

  • Google Art Project

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Verification Level

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of European and American Art at