The Cave of Spleen

Aubrey Beardsley, 1896
The Cave of Spleen, Aubrey Beardsley
The Cave of Spleen, zoomed in
25.5 cmThe Cave of Spleen scale comparison17.3 cm

The Cave of Spleen is an Art Nouveau Pen and Ink Drawing created by Aubrey Beardsley in 1896. The image is in the Public Domain, and tagged Horror and Grotesque. DownloadSee The Cave of Spleen in the Kaleidoscope

Alexander Pope was a satirist, whose biting verse skewered the romantic ideals of 18th century English high-society. In 1712, he published a mock-epic poem entitled “The Rape of the Lock” in which a lock of a woman’s hair is stolen by an admirer, and the incident is embellished into a drama parodying Homer’s Iliad.

Nearly 200 years later, Aubrey Beardsley, already known for his dark, satirical artwork, illustrated Canto IV of Pope’s epic in a grotesque style blurring human forms into plants, machines, or animals.

The Rape of the Lock, Canto IV

Unnumber'd Throngs, on ev'ry side are seen,
Of Bodies chang'd to various forms by Spleen.
Here living Teapots stand, one Arm held out,
One bent; the Handle this, and that the Spout:
A Pipkin there like Homer’s Tripod walks;
Here sighs a Jar, and there a Goose-pye talks;
Men prove with Child, as pow'rful Fancy works,
And Maids turn'd Bottels, call aloud for Corks.

Reed Enger, "The Cave of Spleen," in Obelisk Art History, Published October 03, 2017; last modified October 27, 2022,

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