Piscine dans un harem (c.1876)

Gérôme, Jean-Léon (1824-1904)

Piscine dans un harem (Pool in a Harem)
Oil on canvas, 73.5 x 62 cm
Hermitage MuseumSaint Petersburg

Throughout his artistic career Gérome made numerous visits to the Orient -to Egypt, Turkey, Syria, Palestine and Sinai. His unfailing interest in the depiction of scenes from the life of the Muslim world gave him a reputation as an “ethnographic” artist, of which he was very proud. His orientalizing compositions are often of great documentary value. Gérome produced very precise representations not only of exotic costume, architecture and interiors, but also of different ethnic types. In the Hermitage painting we see a Turkish bath in a harem. In the centre, lit through a window in the ceiling, we see two white women and a dark-skinned slave; in the depth, by the pool, are the smaller figures of naked odalisques. With pedantic care Gérome painted the figures and the details of the setting: the smooth surface of the marble floor, the coloured tiles, the furniture and the clothing. The style of Gérome‘s oriental works, realistic in content and classicizing in technique, is often described as “academic realism”. (SHM)