Henry Ossawa Tanner’s image of the New Testament’s famous stripper was painted in about 1900, and is one of several gloriously strange pictures that punctuate his sedate retrospective at the Pennsylvania Museum of Fine Arts. Tanner, son of a clergyman and a foe of drinking and smoking, was generally devout and upright. That must be why he seems to have kept this lascivious picture out of public view. Did both the style and content of this transgressive scene represent for Tanner the temptations of the Parisian art scene where he made his name? And maybe its concealment showed his victory over those lures, of both the flesh and the brush.
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