Aestheticism and Degeneration: Echoes of The Picture of Dorian Gray in Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Adventure of the Illustrious Client”


  • Camilla Del Grazia University of Pisa



Degeneration, “The Adventure of the Illustrious Client”, The Picture of Dorian Gray


The present paper aims at investigating possible points of contact between Oscar Wilde’s novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891), and Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Adventure of the Illustrious Client” (1924), narrating one of Sherlock Holmes’s final exploits. When considering the portrait motif and its metaphorical meanings, it is clear that, in Wilde’s novel, Dorian’s picture is imbued with connotations that are deeply associated with the author’s aesthetic beliefs as well as with a decadent parable. In the case of Holmes’s adventure, a detailed, narrative characterisation of Baron Adelbert Gruner, the evil antagonist, seems to similarly work as a kind of portrait where ‘surface’ and ‘inner truth’ are strictly interconnected. In line with fin-de-siècle theories such as those of degeneration and criminal anthropology, the villain exhibits blatant physical marks that soon denounce his inner corruption (as does Dorian’s picture). Moreover, in the final resolution of the case, the criminal’s face, deformed by vitriol, is explicitly described as a painting losing its original shapes and colours. This ‘liquefaction process’ further highlights the increasingly pervading link between inner and outer decadence, in a way that lets us envisage similarities between Dorian and Baron Gruner, the two corrupt aesthetes.


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Articles and Essays

How to Cite

Aestheticism and Degeneration: Echoes of The Picture of Dorian Gray in Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Adventure of the Illustrious Client”. (2024). Synergies: A Journal of English Literatures and Cultures, 4.