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Q: The Dance of the Seven Veils ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   1 Comment )
Subject: The Dance of the Seven Veils
Category: Arts and Entertainment > Performing Arts
Asked by: probonopublico-ga
List Price: $5.00
Posted: 11 Jan 2003 05:21 PST
Expires: 10 Feb 2003 05:21 PST
Question ID: 141586
Oscar Wilde has been credited with inventing striptease based on the
stage direction in his 1893 play 'Salome':

'Salome dances the dance of the seven veils'

But are there any earlier references to the Dance of the Seven Veils
or did Wilde conjure up the dance himself?
Subject: Re: The Dance of the Seven Veils
Answered By: hlabadie-ga on 11 Jan 2003 11:45 PST
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Wilde's play was inspired by a passage from A Rebours (translated as
Against the Grain, available from Dover Publications) by Joris-Karl
Huysmans (1884), master of the Decadent Movement. The passage is an
elaborate and fanciful description by the neurasthenic protagonist Des
Esseintes of two paintings by Gustave Moreau (1876).

Gustave Moreau

Huysmans describes the aftermath of the dance as shown in the
water-color "The Apparition". In part, it reads in translation, "She
[Salome] is almost naked; in the ardour of the dance the veils have
unwound themselves, the brocaded draperies of her robes have slipped

Aesthetes and Decadents of 1890's, ed. Beckson, Karl, Vintage (Random
House), NY, 1966, Appendix, Joris-Karl Huysmans,  pp. 274-280.

Wilde was not inspired by Louys, but merely sent it to him (among
others) for correction of his French. Wilde wrote the play in October
and November, 1891.

Letter to Louys from Wilde, ca. December, 1891

The Letters of Oscar Wilde, ed. Rupert Hart-Davis, Harcourt Brace, New
York, 1962., pp. 305-306, n.1


Clarification of Answer by hlabadie-ga on 11 Jan 2003 21:46 PST
As an addendum, Wilde is known to have read A Rebours prior to 1890,
because he confirmed his knowledge of it in 1895.

In his libel trial against the Marquess of Queensberry, Wilde was
cross-examined by Edward Carson. Carson introduced several passages
from The Picture of Dorian Gray, (Lippincott's Monthly Magazine, July,
1890) as part of the defense. Wilde's reply is after the dashes.

"In another passage Dorian Gray receives a book. Was the book to which
you refer a moral book? -- Not well written, but it gave me an idea...

[Witness admitted that the book in question was a French work, A
Rebours, by J.K. Huysmans...]"

pp. 130-131
The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde, Hyde, H. Montgomery, University
Books, New York, 1956

The passage to which Carson refers occurs at the end of Chapter X in
The Picture of Dorian Gray.

It can be seen, therefore, that Wilde had already been influenced by A
Rebours more than a year before he wrote Salome.

By the way, the manuscript (third of three drafts) bearing the
corrections by Louys is in the Rosenbach Foundation in Philadelphia,

probonopublico-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $5.00

I am seriously impressed and delighted.

Subject: Re: The Dance of the Seven Veils
From: tehuti-ga on 11 Jan 2003 07:05 PST
Elizabeth Artemis Mourat, who claims to have researched the history of
the veil for 16 years, writes about the seven veils dance: "I could
write for pages and pages on this topic. Actually in the manuscript, I
have 5 pages single spaced and 42 pictures on the history of this
seven veil dance. I explained why I know that there was no such thing
and who actually started this notion. Did you know that it was either
Oscar Wilde or Pierre Louys? I quote their texts."

Higher up on the same page, another contributor writes: 
"The book, _Radif-E Raqs: Collection of Dance Sequences of the Persian
Tradition_, by Katherine St. John, Mahera Harouny and Lloyd Miller,
mentions a dance called "raqs-e haft dastmal" (dance of the seven
scarves). It is a dance of the Qashqai, a semi-nomadic tribe living in
villages around Shiraz in Fars province. Unfortunately the book does
not give a detailed description of the dance."

However, elsewhere on the site, you find: "The Qashqai are a
turkic-speaking transhumant (they travel twice each year, between
summer and winter grazing lands) tribe of Southwest Iran, Fars
provice. They dance with a small scarf in each hand, and flick the
scarf to the beat of the music. In my research and field work with
them, I have learned several women's dances, all to 6/8, but never a
dance called "dast-e haft dastmal" (doesn't mean there isn't one, I
just can't describe it for you). Dastmal translates more to "hanky" or
"scarf" rather than "veil". Qashqai women (like most tribal women) do
not veil themselves, though they do wear a filmy head scarf that they
decorate with large sequins depending from short strings of beads."

Since I cannot find the relevant reference by Louys, and therefore
cannot say (a) whether the text is relevant and (b) when it appeared,
I include this as a comment rather than as an answer.

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