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Jean-Léon Gérôme (11 May 1824 – 10 January 1904)

My post on Jean-Léon Gérôme‘s OrientalismOrientalisme: Mostly Gérôme, features several bashi-bazouk. This happened inadvertently. I wanted to show the whippet dogs and the character named Arnaut. I also wanted to show a hookah, a smoking and vaporizing instrument used in the various countries of the Ottoman Empire, as well as Pakistan and India. These were popular items in the 1960s and early 1970s, when smoking cannabis became fashionable.

Gérôme’s artwork also refers to pashas (see France in North Africa), persons who occupied a high rank in the Ottoman army and/or government. Some Europeans became honorary pashas whose title could be compared to that of an Earl in Britain. (See Pasha, Wikipedia.) Other familiar scenes are mosques and harems. As a history painter, Gérôme also recorded the trading of white women, la traite des blanches, going back to the Roman Empire. Arabs were fond of white women whom they bought and enslaved. Gérôme’s paintings of harems and women bathing show white women. (See Traite des blanches, FR Wikipedia.)

I will therefore feature a few paintings that are not portraits of bashi-bazouk, the very cruel irregular soldiers of the Ottoman Empire.


The Slave Market in Rome by Gérôme, 1884 (wikiart.org)


The Muezzin by Gérome, 1865, (Joslyn Art Museum)


Prayer in Cairo by Jean-Léon Gérôme, 1865 (MMA, NY)


Harem Women Feeding Pigeons in a Courtyard by Gérôme, no date (wikiart.org)


Napoléon in Egypt by Gérôme, c. 1863 (Princeton University Art Museum)


Gérôme was a very prolific artist whose art was at times extremely engaging, which may explain why it appealed to Théophile Gautier. I have a favourite Gérôme, The Duel After the Masquerade, of which there are two copies. La Sortie du bal masqué cannot be classified as Orientalism but it speaks to me, it is evocative.

In the second half of the 19th century, when American started to go to Paris and bought works of art, art such as Gérôme’s were not purchased frequently. It was academic art. The American colony in Paris bought the works of innovators whose art was rejected at the Paris Salon. Emperor Napoleon III authorized the 1763 Salon des Refusés, an exhibition held at the Palais de l’Industrie.

Gérôme is known mainly as an academic painter. He was very well-trained and he painted as he had been taught. He was nevertheless very successful as an artist and art teacher. As noted above, Gérôme specialized in history painting, but he also created art depicting Greek mythology and he became a prominent orientalist.

Works by Gérôme are housed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY, the Walters Museum of Art, Baltimore, the J. Paul Getty Museum, Malibu, and other museums. Many have been purchased privately, and reproductions are available. A reproduction is not as valuable as the original work of art. However, the ‘image’ is the most important element in the visual arts and Gérôme was an accomplished artist.

I have inserted Rimsky-Korsakov‘s Scheherazade, Symphonic Suite (Op. 35, 2), composed in 1888. Scheherazade is based on the One Thousand and One NightsArabian fairy tales, and constitutes an excellent example of Orientalism in music.



Pelt Merchant of Cairo, 1869 (wikiart.org)

Jean-Léon Gérôme
Rimsky-Korsakov, Scheherazade, Symphonic Suite (Op. 35, 2)
Amir Selim


The Whirling Dervishes by Gérôme, 1895 (wikiart.org)

© Micheline Walker
17 August 2016