Date of Award

Fall 2013

Thesis Type

Open Access

Degree Name

Master of Liberal Studies


Susan Libby

Second Advisor

Patricia Lancaster


The Belle Époque in Europe marked a time of great change. Many of the old, yet longstanding traditions were being challenged and modernity really took hold of society at that time. The changes in the social fabric with issues such as the roles of women were common topics of conversation. Women demanded new rights and began to even question the role of masculinity in this new age. This was the emergence of the “New Woman,” and with all of these great changes came great anxiety. This cultural anxiety felt by many was expressed in the arts of the period which is evident with the widespread use of a certain trope. The Biblical tale of Salomé, a woman who uses her sexuality as a power over men, and through her new power is able to cause the death of John the Baptists inspires the artists of the period. These images became a cliché of the age. It is a subject which finds its way into many of the paintings, the literature, onto the stage and into the opera houses of this time. These images on the canvas and on the stage of this women decapitating men came to represent an underlying concern about the usurpation of male authority and acted as an expression of anxiety, and a symbolic castration of male power during the Belle Époque. As male authority in society began to wane, and the roles of women changed, the use of this trope of Salomé became more pervasive acting as a mirror reflected by the artist of this cultural anxiety during the Belle Époque in Europe.