Born in Florence, Affortunato Gory (also spelt Gori) initially studied at the city's Accademia di Belle Arti under Augusto Rivalta. Settling in Paris at the beginning of the 20th century, he completed his training under Victorien-Antoine Bastet, before going on to exhibit at the Salon up until the start of the First World War. An exponent of chryselephantine sculpture, Gory specialised predominantly in busts and statuettes of young women, executed using varying combinations of marble, gilt and patinated bronze, and ivory.
Gory's inspiration for the present work was almost certainly the controversial performance of celebrated Canadian dancer, Maud Allan, in The Vision of Salome, first performed in 1906. A contemporary and rival of Isadora Duncan, Allan (d. 1956) based the show on Oscar Wilde's play of 1893, devising the choreography herself, and setting it to specially commissioned music by Belgian composer, Marcel Rémy. The 20-minute solo tour de force opened in London in 1908 and for six months Allan's diaphanous costume and overtly sexual musical interpretation, both considered scandalous for the time, packed out the Palace Theatre in Cambridge Circus. In fact, such was the spectacle and its impact on respectable Edwardian society that Allan became known variously thereafter as 'The Salome Dancer', the 'nude dancer' and, famously by Debussy, as 'la girl anglaise'.
A contemporary photograph of Allan published in her autobiography, My Life and Dancing (London, 1908), shows her in a virtually identical pose to that portrayed here by Gory. Meanwhile, other photographs, immortalising her in the role of Salome, show a similarly elaborate and risqué costume, whose recreation in marble here has allowed Gory to demonstrate his virtuosity as a sculptor. A simplified version of Salôme was also edited in a combination of gilt-bronze and ivory or marble. An example of the latter was sold Christie's London, 14 May 1998, lot 136.