The character of Dorian Gray and his portrait stand as embodiments of the decadence of the fin de siècle. Dorian does not only lead a lifestyle that is decadent, hedonistic, and “immoral” on a superficial level, as it is implied that he engages in several affairs with young women and frequents opium dens, but the marred portrait and Dorian’s permanently youthful visage themselves represent the artificiality that was favored by the decadents – “the aesthetic crosses over into the real world and takes on its temporality, whereas the real, by the magic of Dorian’s wish not to age, takes on the timelessness of art (Bernheimer, et al, 5)”.
To decadent forefather Charles Baudelaire, virtue and goodness were artificial constructs – “"All that is beautiful and noble is the result of reason and calculation. Crime, the taste for which the human animal draws from the womb of his mother, is natural in its origins. Virtue, on the contrary, is artificial and supernatural, since gods and prophets were necessary in every epoch and every nation to teach virtue . . . the good is always the product of some art (“Decadents and Aesthetes.”)," he wrote. Baudelaire’s thoughts on crime bring to mind Lord Henry’s, “All crime is vulgar, just as all vulgarity is crime… Crime belongs exclusively to the lower orders… I should fancy that crime was to them what art is to us, simply a method of procuring extraordinary sensations (Wilde 213).” Lord Henry seems to feel similarly to Baudelaire as he finally presents to Dorian the boundaries of his decadent philosophy – crime is vulgar, and therefore the opposite of art, and adds, “One should never do anything that one cannot talk about after dinner,” indicating further that his objection to crime is not related to the question of its morality, but because it lacks the virtue of the artistic.
Dorian’s affair with Sibyl Vane is another case in the novel that suggests the virtue of artificiality, for Dorian loves Sibyl as a talented actress, a figure of art and artificiality. When Sibyl succumbs to her human love for Dorian and loses her talent, Dorian as a true decadent, falls out of love with her.