Aubrey Beardsley, 'Ali Baba'

Aubrey Beardsley, 'Ali Baba'

Aubrey Beardsley (1872-98)
'Ali Baba'
Line block print
Museum no. E.1089-1996

This is one of Beardsley's most powerful and confident drawings. The size and obesity of Ali Baba's body is suggested in the most simple and minimal way. He almost seems to blend in with the background, his shape defined only by his robes and richly profuse jewellery.

The decorations on the tassel seem to be based on 17th-century embroidery designs known as 'blackwork'. Beardsley may have studied this rare form of ornament at the South Kensington Museum (now the V&A).

It is typical of him to 'quote' historical forms in this way. He drew inspiration from many different sources, and yet his style was uniquely his own.

This design dates from near the end of Beardsley's short life. It is his only drawing for a proposed book of Arabian Night's Tales, The Forty Thieves. The book was left unfinished at his death from tuberculosis in 1898.

This print can be found in Prints and Drawings Study Room box TOPIC 21a.