Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824–1904): Harem Women Feeding Pigeons

4/9/2021, 9:16:00 AM
Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824–1904): Harem Women Feeding Pigeons in a Courtyard, Oil on canvas, Private collection . . . 'Harem Women Feeding Pigeons in a Courtyard' is a masterwork created during Gérôme's adventures to the Southwest Asia. The composition of the picture is remarkable, all the way across the canvas from left to right through the line of action. The white veiled women are each distinct individuals by the color of their robes and the poise of their individual poses. The woman feeding the pigeons extends her hand in easy grace, enhanced by Gérôme's depiction of the birdfeed as it gently drifts towards the ground. Surely it is significant that the light catches some of the pigeons, bleaching them dove-white as angels on the wing. In contrast, the palace guard is a true outsider to the scene. Unlike the women, his face is uncovered and his skin is dark. He wears a dramatic, military red robe and his arms are tightly clenched to his body. He is not in any way involved in her act of charity and nourishment, which is particularly feminine. The birds are masterfully done, flying in-and-out of shafts of bright sunlight. Their shadows are cast on the sun-drenched steps, and they nest in the beams overhead. The sense of flight is complete, with elegant wings suspending them mid-air, mixed with a sense of both delicacy and movement. The most impressive aspect to this picture, is the way in which Gerome has captured the lofty space and feeling of the courtyard. The pillars have support beams stretching back to the wall, providing a sense of depth. The pillars on the left are partially lit, providing a sense of height and scale. The door behind the birdfeeder leads into darkness and the cooler recesses within, while the window to the right opens out into the sun and open air.(James Abbot)

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