Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824 - 1904): Before the Audience, 1881

Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824 - 1904): Before the Audience, 1881

2/25/2021, 2:33:01 PM
Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824 - 1904): Before the Audience, 1881, oil on canvas, 74 x 60cm., Private Collection Among the most commercially successful artists of the nineteenth century, Jean-Léon Gérôme built his reputation as an Orientalist. When he painted the present work, Gérôme was recalling his own trips to the Orient, specifically to Istanbul and Anatolia in 1871, 1875 and 1879. He often relied on photographs taken during these trips to craft the backdrop, architecture, and costumes in the painting. 'Before the Audience' situates two men and a black cat warming themselves by a stove in a richly ornamented Ottoman interior. Resplendent with lustrous Iznik tiles, the scene evokes the grandeur of Topkapi Palace without being based directly on any hitherto identified interior. Gérôme is thought to have visited Topkapi while in Istanbul; he also drew upon photographs by Abdullah Frères to depict these kinds of images. Gérôme’s customary painstaking execution of the scene’s details, and particularly successful handling of diffuse light, combine to lend the present work a distinctly poetic atmosphere. As much a depiction of a rich Ottoman interior, the present work is almost an allegory for the sense of touch, in a tradition which dates back to the Renaissance. The viewer is invited to imagine his or her own hands running over the warm burner, enjoying the peace and comfort which at any moment could be disrupted by the door to the left being thrown open. (Sotheby's)

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