Sunday, 31 May 2009


“The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.” - Aristotle

For Art Sunday, a painting by Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824-1904) It is his “Duel after a Masked Ball”, 1857; Oil on canvas; The Hermitage, St. Petersburg. Gérôme was a French painter and sculptor, a pupil of Paul Delaroche from whom he learnt his highly finished academic style. His best-known works are his oriental scenes, made authentic through his several visits to Egypt. These orientalist paintings were very popular in the late 19th century and won Gérôme great acclaim. Riding on the crest of this success, he had considerable influence as an upholder of academic tradition and enemy of progressive trends in art; he opposed, for example, the acceptance by the state of the Caillebotte bequest of Impressionist pictures.

Another genre that he painted extensively in was that of scenes of classical antiquity. His carefully composed canvases of Roman and Greek scenes are full of charming detail and historically accurate representations of everyday life. His snapshots of the stuff of legend and history bring these scenes of antiquity back to life and certainly make the study of history more interesting. However, it should be noted that in both his oriental and antique styles, Gérôme often sacrifices the telling of the story to some thinly veiled eroticism and voyeurism. A liberal sprinkling of female nudes make his art border on the salacious.

The last group of his works represent portraiture and miscellaneous scenes that generally tell a story. The painting above is such an example and from this scene one can imagine a rich tale of love, betrayal, honour regained and death.

Jean-Léon Gérôme died in his atelier on 10 January 1904. He was found in front of a portrait of Rembrandt and close to his own painting “The Truth”. At his own request, he was given a simple burial service, even without flowers. But the Requiem Mass given in his memory was attended by a former president of the Republic, most prominent politicians, and many painters and writers. He was buried in the Montmartre Cemetery in front of the statue “Sorrow” that he had cast for his son Jean, who had died in 1891.


  1. Definitely love the starting quote. A great snippet of words.

  2. Yeah, I did the illustration on my page. Thanks for swinging by and leaving the comment!