This image is an illustration by Aubrey Beardsley called “The Rape of the Lock,” which is based on a poem by Alexander Pope. It is included in the The Savoy, Volume 2 (1896).
Alexander Pope was an English poet who lived from 1688 – 1744. He is known for his satirical writing, which is a major theme of “Rape of the Lock.”
“Rape of the Lock” is a mock-heroic narrative poem set in England and features two catholic families. Petre, from one family, cuts a lock of hair from a noblewoman named Arabella, who hails from another family, without permission. The consequent argument had created a breach between the two families, who were previously close friends. The poem’s title does not refer to sexual rape, but to an earlier definition derived from the Latin word rapere – “to snatch, or to carry off” – in this case, the theft of Arabella’s hair.
Aubrey Beardsley illustrated many images from this poem. Most notably, he drew the scene in which the hair is being cut. Beardsley perfectly captures the covert perversion of cutting off one’s hair by intricately drawing the scene so that the possessive act is hidden in the detail. The scissors are hard to see because so much is going on in the image. I believe this is a purposeful representation of an obsession kept hidden. That obsession, of course, treats the woman as an object for a man to take, lock by lock.
By Vanessa Mainella
Pope, Alexander. “Pope’s The Rape of the Lock.” The Rape of the Lock and Other Poems, by
Pope, Project Gutenburg, 2012, www.gutenberg.org/files/9800/9800-h/9800-h.htm.