Something that always intrigued me is the femme fatale phenomenon that happened in the late 19th century. All these beautiful and elegant women painted with such splendor by the fin-de-siècle painters. But it is the fact that they represent power and are feared by men that I love the most. Every culture and every “period” has its own femmes fatale, I guess that nowadays our femmes fatale are more superficial than back in the days (I mean how talented are most of our popstars really ?).
I selected a few of my favorite femme fatale paintings and did some research of who this femme fatale is and what she did.
So first off here’s Salome painted by Jean Benner
Her look is just perfect, so calm and so serene. Salomé is a Jewish princess, daughter of Herodias. She has a relationship with her stepbrother Herodes Antipas who is the governor of Galilea. At his birthday party she dances like a true femme fatale and he’s so seduced that he lets her make a wish in front of all the guests. Because all biblical and mythical stories are family matter Herodias moms decides to step in the story, she sees the perfect opportunity for vengeance. John the Baptist criticized the mothers relationship and was now rotting in a dungeon for that, but for Herodias mother it was not enough. She convinced Salomé to wish for Johns head on a silver plate. You can guess how this story ends.
Second evil woman and beautiful painting is Circe by John William Waterhouse
Circe is the daughter of the sun-god Helios and likes to transform her enemies in animals with magic potions. Who does not love a bit of witchcraft? When Odysseus gets lost on her island after the Trojan war she decides to have a party with all of Odysseus crew. But a party isn’t a party when you can’t transform people into animals? Circe transforms every man of the crew in a pig. Luckily there is one man that gets what she is doing, is able to find Odysseus has an antidote! Happy ending for this one.
Third femme fatale is Judith painted by Gustav Klimt
A true femme fatale loves to decapitate men. That’s how Judith a Jewish widower from Bethulia, a city besieged by the Assyrians and their commander Holofernes. She manages to infiltrate the enemy camp and gets to Holofernes, Judith is a beautiful woman and Holofernes is immediately seduced. When the timing is right she beheads Holofernes with his own sword. When she gets back to Bethulia with the head as trophy, the Assyrians have no other choice than to leave.
Our fourth femme fatale is Cleopatra painted by Alexandre Cabanel
When you are bored you probably watch a serie on Netflix, go for a walk or have a drink with your friends, but not Cleopatra. She likes to test out poisons on condemned prisoners while petting a cheetah. she was the most powerful Farao, doted of extreme beauty. She seduces one powerful roman after the other and the men she spent the night with were murdered in the morning. Her brother Ptolemeus XIII kicks her of the throne, but thank god there is Julius Caesar who’s able to give her position back. To keep this powerposition she becomes Caesars lover. When Caesar gets killed she’s in rome with their son. After this she goes back to Egypt where her brother mysteriously dies.