Oscar Wilde’s (1854–1900) only novel The Picture of Dorian Gray is the Faust-like tale of a man who devotes his life to sensuality and debauchery, but remains youthful, while his portrait shows the effects of his physical and spiritual decay. The novel proved as controversial as Wilde’s private life. It first appeared, censored, in 1890 in Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine. A version heavily altered by Wilde was published in book form the following year.
This edition comes from 1925, with illustrations by Henry Keen. In addition to the twelve plates are embellishments and decorations (such as the butterfly on the cover and inked pattern at the end) hinting at the art nouveau style of Aubrey Beardsley (1872–1898).
The final image shows the rings on the dead Gray’s hand – the only way to identify the body, which has now suddenly aged, while the portrait has returned to its youthful perfection.