Vardges Sureniants (1860 – 1921) was an Armenian artist, considered the founder of historical painting in Armenia. Born in the Russian Empire in modern-day Georgia, he studied at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture and then went on to the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich where he continued studying architecture.
Between 1885 – 1887 Sureniants traveled to Persia, his travels greatly influencing his oriental style. We can see that influence in Salomé (1907), where the ornamental details are exquisite. The painting itself is based on the biblical persona of Salomé who, according to the New Testament, demanded and obtained the head of John the Baptizer on a silver platter. In art she is often portrayed as a temptress, a dangerous seductive woman. According to the biblical story, she enchanted her father and his guests by dancing for them, after which Herod, the father, told her to ask him anything and he would deliver. Instructed by her mother, she demanded for the head of John the Baptizer.
Blending modernism with orientalism, Sureniants portrays Salomé in a very seductive way while she’s looking down, probably at the severed head of John the Baptizer. She appears ruthless and firm, her hands resting on her hips in a position of dominance. Salomé is fully clothed except for her torso, the whiteness of her skin blending in with the radiance of the clothing and the background. A shawl hangs over her shoulders, partially covering her breasts. She looks powerful, seductive and dominating. Most of all, she looks modern, despite the oriental background and the traditional clothes. She might as well be shooting for the cover of Vogue magazine.