Aubrey BeardsleyCaprice. Verso: Masked Woman with a White Mouse c.1894

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Artwork details

Aubrey Beardsley (1872‑1898)
Caprice. Verso: Masked Woman with a White Mouse
Date c.1894
MediumOil paint on canvas
Dimensionssupport: 762 x 635 mm frame: 940 x 815 x 80 mm
Acquisition Purchased 1923
On display at Tate Britain
Room: 1890


This is the only known oil painting by Beardsley and, unusually, it comprises two pictures on the one canvas. The first painting to be completed appears to have been A Caprice, a fanciful yet sinister work, depicting a woman in a black dress with green trimmings and a black dwarf in a red costume. On the other side, painted between the stretchers, is an almost surreal image of a masked woman with a white mouse. Both works are unfinished, and should be regarded as experimental

A Caprice appears to derive from the drawing Comedy Ballet of Marionettes I, one of a series of three which appeared in the avant-garde journal, The Yellow Book, in July 1894. In both drawing and painting the woman is being invited by the sinister dwarf to pass through a doorway. The sexual connotations of this gesture are made more overt in the drawing, where the phallic form of the door is emphasised. Beardsley was constantly challenging the conventional view of male-female relations and in the second drawing in the series the woman approaches a door symbolising the female sexual organs… (read more)

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