Nabil Kanso Dance of Salome (La Danse de Salomé) (1985)
85 Paintings and 75 works on paper
Kanso’s Apocalypse and Dance of Salome series
…Biblical and literary sources provide a fascinating wealth of materials that inspires and triggers the artistic imagination in the conception and structure of ideas and forms. In working on these two series “Apocalypse and Salome”, a world of ideas seems to open up a wide range of interchangeable images that seem to float, move, expand and explode on canvas and paper with a variety of forms and shapes in a continuous rhythm running from one work to another.
Each series consists of a large quantity of works in which one scene is juxtaposed with another scene in a contrast of atmosphere, tone, theme, and figures. Together they form a chain that links the images and reveal the inner layers of imageries.
The works in both the Apocalypse and Salome series are based on biblical subjects. They have aspect and characteristics that are intricately related. In one we have John the Evangelist, on the other, John the Baptist. They share various characteristics through the tribulation and unfolding of dramatic events.
In the Book of Revelation we have fantastic and incredible visions. In Salome, we find John the Baptist addressing Herodias – the wife of King Herod- and her daughter Salome, in a voice, tone, manner and language which appear similar to those of John the Evangelist.
In the Revelation, St. John admonishes Jezebel and her immoral ways and proceeds to describe a dual femininity symbolized on one side by the heavenly mother as the immaculate woman represented by the sun and, on the other, by the earthly woman represented by the moon. The heavenly woman flees from the seven-headed menacing red dragon, whereas the earthly woman sits on a seven-headed scarlet beast and she is clothed in purple and scarlet filled with gold and precious stones and holding in her hand a cup full of abomination of her immoral behavior. She is the Great Harlot representing Babylon as the earthly whore who copulates with men and kings.
In the story of Salome, and particularly in Oscar Wilde’s Salome, John the Baptist admonishes Herodias as the wicked woman who desires and lusts for having sex and making love with young men. She is the great whore, and so is her daughter whom he addresses as the “daughter of adultery.”
When Salome appears she descends from the moon as immaculate and pure, but once on earth, she tends to whore side of femininity and goes after John who rejects her advances. She dances with seven veils, a sort of strip tease performance in which she takes off one veil at a time until she dances naked before the multitude of men.
In the play Salomé, Oscar Wilde makes various use of the interchange of names between the two Johns, as well as between the Great Harlot and Herodias, with the inferences that both reflect and express sexual desires and lust, and, consequently, are viewed as whores. The story of Salomé and the visions of the Apocalypse have spectacular imageries that are inspiring and intriguing to the imagination of artists in works of literature, music and the visual arts across culture. Painters such as Titian, Caravaggio, Cranach, Redon, Regnault, von Stuck, Klimt, and, especially, Gustave Moreau have done some fabulous paintings of Salome. Also, there are the famous illustrations by Aubrey Beardsley for Oscar Wilde’s play. In music, there is Richard Strauss great opera with its magnificent dance music.
The story of Salome brings together compelling figures with characteristics combining highly appealing and provocative elements. At the center of the action is the protagonist, the mysterious Princess. In my Salome series, the primary subject is Salome and the title “Dance of Salome” refers to all the works in the series. The composition of practically every scene depicts the Salome as a dancing figure from her first appearance as the moon princess to her descent to earth and through her dramatic dance finale.
From an interview with Kanso on his Apocalypse and Salome series
May 21, 2009