FOUND hanging in a Boston bathroom, the whereabouts of this Aubrey Beardsley (1872-1898) illustration had been a mystery for more than 80 years. Entitled The Climax, and hanging in the lavatory alongside another Beardsley pen-and-ink drawing called A Platonic Lament, the owners had no idea of its significance.
Both were in fact original illustrations for Oscar Wilde's
controversial play Salome: A Tragedy in One Act, and it
was thought they were purchased by the owner's grandfather.
They were spotted during a routine valuation not far outside the
East Coast city by the director of books and manuscripts at
auctioneers Skinner's, Stuart Whitehurst.
Originally written in French, the first English edition of
Salome was published in 1894 in London by Elkin Mathews
and John Lane and included the Beardsley illustrations.
While nine of the 13 original drawings have ended up in Harvard
University's Fogg Art Museum, the other three remained
After their rediscovery, these two were offered at Skinner's
November 16 sale in Boston, both with $15,000-20,000 estimates.
While A Platonic Lament made $120,000, The Climax made an
auction record for a Beardsley drawing, selling at $180,000 (plus
18.5 per cent buyer's premium).
The final missing illustration is Enter Herodias.
By Alex Capon