ArtTwist#6 – Jean-Leon Gerome


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Jean-Léon Gérôme (1870) Almehs Playing Chess; The Dance of the Almeh (1863)
Source: Athenaeum Public Domain

The Slave Market (abt 1866) Source: Wikipedia Public Domain

Jean-Léon Gérôme was a French born artist (1824 – 1904), whose better known academic paintings and sculptures demonstrate an ongoing fascination with romanticised Oriental and Ancient History scenes.  Gérôme’s interest in Oriental painting stemmed from an initial visit to Egypt in 1856, and continued throughout his career. In particular the artist had an abiding interest in the life of the women of the Harem. There are many paintings of women bathing, dancing, smoking nargile’s and playing games, two of which are featured here.  Gérôme also painted a number of so-called History paintings featuring Slave Auctions including the one shown above.

As an artist and a former Belly Dancer I too have an appreciation of many of Gérôme’s images. While I was tempted to simply use one of my favorite dance images as the prompt, I initially chose the chess players instead, thinking it would provide an interesting and challenging alternative to the obvious. However, upon further reflection (see below) I decided to offer 3 images including Gérôme’s Slave Auction image, even though the subject matter makes me very uncomfortable, since it reflects a non-consensual reality past and present.

In several of my cordial online conversations with kinkster Michael Samadhi we discussed aspects of Art, and I was appreciative of his interest and engagement. One day he sent me a link to this post of his. Michael’s writing gave me considerable insight into a kink approach to Gérôme’s work, and he also made a case for Gérôme as a kinkster. He was very careful to discuss the issues of consent given the nature of the works, and I strongly recommend you read his post here, as an adjunct to this one.

Michael was giving thought to a suitable prompt for ArtTwist during his illness immediately prior to Christmas, and seemed to indicate that a Gérôme painting would be a likely candidate. I still don’t know what happened to Michael, and it is unlikely I’ll ever know. He was very ill, and neither of his blogs have been accessed since that time, so I have, albeit reluctantly, come to the conclusion that he is no longer with us.

With this thought in mind I dedicate this ArtTwist to Michael and his appreciation of Oriental art. I doubt the image would be one he would have chosen from Gérôme’s extensive Academic History works, however if you care to read his earlier blog post you can see other works which are more likely to have won his favor.

In preparing this post I also read with interest a description from that font of wisdom – Wikipedia, regarding the popular atalier that Jean-Léon Gérôme founded at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts when he returned from the Middle East.  Wikipedia states that: “According to John Milner, who studied with Gérôme, his atelier was the most “riotous” and “lewd” of all the studios at Beaux-Arts. There students were treated to bizarre initiation rites which included such things as slashing each other’s canvases, throwing students down stairs of out windows and onto upturned stools, staging fencing matches on the model’s dais, in the nude and with paintbrushes loaded with paint…”

So, what games do you like to play? Do you fancy yourself as an Odalisque, or a slave? Or are you the Slave Master or a Janissary keeping watch over the Harem?
Or perhaps you re-imagine yourself as one of Gérôme’s students engaging in lewd and riotous behaviour in the atalier?

Link closes June 7, 11 pm Melbourne time…

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9 thoughts on “ArtTwist#6 – Jean-Leon Gerome

  1. Belonging to a harem, living there with other girls and being always hoping and ready to be called has been a fantasy of mine in two long epochs of life: when I was a teen and discovered Shahrazad’s tales (and the illustrations in the book our Dad had), and these few last years.
    Now, reading Michael Samadhi’s beautifully illustrated post, I have “mixed memory and desire” (you know it is April 😉 ) and gone through the odalisque fantasy with some ardour 🙃

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    • Yes indeed, my own appreciation of this desire is why I must go to Granada while in Spain… I suspect we would both find things to entertain us while waiting, but I fear the wait would be tedious despite that… I’m so glad my choice has “hit the spot” xoxox (on laptop – no emoji’s)


    • Not recently, but earlier this year I tried various means but there was nothing. I can only imagine how tough it would have been for her if he has passed. x


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