- Jean-Léon Gérôme
- Arnaut Officer (Officier Arnaute)
- inscribed and signed on the reverse donne par J. L Gérôme/5 Novembre 1894/avec son buste par Carpeaux/ F. Boutreaux'
- pencil and oil on panel
- 12 5/8 by 10 1/8 in.
- 32 by 25.7 cm
École des Beaux-Arts, Paris (gifted from the artist in 1894)
Felix Boutreaux (an architect associated with the École des Beaux-Arts, Paris)
Thence by descent
Galerie André Watteau (acquired from the above)
Galerie Tanagra, Paris, 1974 Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Tanenbaum, Toronto
Borghi & Co., New York
Ottawa, National Gallery of Canada, The Other Nineteenth Century: Paintings and Sculpture in the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Tanenbaum, Spring-Summer 1978, no. 32 (with additional venues in Victoria, Calgary, Montreal, and Toronto)
Gérôme sculpteur et peintre de l'Art official, exh. cat., Paris, 1974, no. 33 (as Guerrier arabe)
The Other Nineteenth Century: Paintings and Sculptures in the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Tanenbaum, exh. cat., Ottawa, 1978, no. 32
Gerald M. Ackerman, The Life and Work of Jean-Léon Gérôme, Paris, 1986, pp. 198-99, no. 69, illustrated
Hélène Lafont-Couturier, Gérôme, Paris, 1998, p. 21, illustrated Gerald M. Ackerman, Jean-Léon Gérôme: Monographies revisees, catalogue raisonné mis à jour, Paris, 2000, p. 230, no. 69, illustrated p. 231
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Gerald Ackerman has suggested that this exquisite picture anticipates one of Gérôme's most highly acclaimed works, the Recrues égyptiennes traversant le désert (private collection) (fig. 1). In this more expansive work, the Arnaut officer is situated at left, with additional 'recruits' behind him. Gérôme and his traveling companion in the Middle East, the sculptor Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi, had witnessed first-hand the forced enrollment of Egyptian peasants by Albanian soldiers (Arnauts) in Asyut, a large town located about 230 miles south of Cairo, in February of 1856. The trauma of this experience might have encouraged Gérôme to abandon the present work, which remained in his studio unfinished, for nearly forty years, and focus more intently on the figures of the handcuffed fellahin themselves.
Throughout his travels in the 1860s and 1870s, Gérôme made hundreds of sketches and studies and amassed an impressive collection of photographs and local goods, which were later used toward the meticulously detailed, highly polished oil paintings executed at his Paris studio. Here for example, in addition to studies undoubtedly made on the spot, Gérôme used photographs to help him render the figure of the Arnaut officer. The Musée d'Orsay in Paris houses several photographs of a model in an identical pose and in Arnaut costume in the courtyard of a house (fig. 2). The extraordinary realism of the man's pleated skirt, with each fold seemingly sculpted out of sunlight and shadow, attests to the intensity of Gérôme's artistic practice, while the thin washes of color and delicate pencil outlines of the background figures - some rendered so slightly that they threaten to blow away in the desert winds - demonstrate the sensitivity and lightness of touch that Gérôme could achieve.