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.
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, http://www.arthistoryproject.com/artists/aubrey-beardsley/the-cave-of-spleen/.