This thesis argues that Ella Ferris Pell's 1890 painting, Salome, provides a unique interpretation of the ideals of the New Woman, specifically in terms of reclaiming female power through Salome's confidence in her sexuality. By examining the cultural context in which Pell exhibited her painting, as well as her background as an artist, I hope bring to the light the significant ways in which Pell's Salome participates in the construction of the New Woman in late nineteenth-century culture. Since Pell was an American woman who trained and exhibited in both the United States and France, this paper explores the significance of the New Woman in both countries. Through the examination of these ideas, we can better appreciate the way in which Pell approached her painting and why it was not well received in Paris—despite its popular subject matter, technical execution, and relevance to the popular topic of the women's movement. Drawing upon the rich visual culture of this era, I offer a comparative study of how both images of women and actual women embraced sexuality and femininity as a means of exerting influence over men, and by so doing, carved out a sphere of influence in a male-dominated society.



College and Department

Humanities; Comparative Arts and Letters



Date Submitted


Document Type





Ella Ferris Pell, Salome, woman artist, New Woman, fin de siècle, United States, France, Sarah Bernhardt, Gibson Girl, femme fatale

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Classics Commons