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Details & Cataloguing

19th Century European Paintings

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London

Jean-Léon Gérôme
1824-1904
FRENCH
FEMMES AU BAIN
signed J.L. GEROME lower centre
oil on canvas
74 by 94cm., 29 by 37in.
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Provenance

Sale: American Art Association, New York, 28 March, 1935, lot 43

Exhibited

Paris, Salon, 1898

Literature

Le Figaro illustré, 1898, p. 7
Haller, Nos grands peintres, Paris, 1899, p. 156
Gerald M. Ackerman, Jean-Léon Gérôme. Monographie révisée. Catalogue raisonné mis à jour, Paris, 2000, p. 348, no. 449, catalogued and illustrated (as lost)

Catalogue Note

Gérôme's splendid depiction of three women lounging around a round hot pool in a private bathhouse under the watchful eye of their attendant epitomises the bath scenes central to his work in the 1890s, and which built on the success of his most celebrated bath scene, La Grande piscine à Bursa shown to great acclaim at the Paris Salon of 1885 (fig. 1).

Gérôme had visited Bursa in 1879, but already the genre of the Turkish bath was well established. Delacroix, Ingres, and Chassériau had received critical acclaim for their various nudes set in Turkish interiors. Ingres' famous rendition of this subject in 1862 is an exotic fantasy of voluptuous flesh and writhing bodies. In contrast, Femmes au bain seems devoid of lasciviousness: the nudes are not shown as examples of primitive sensuality; they are simply engaged in the social activity of bathing. Instead of portraying his models in erotic poses, Gérôme observes the movement of muscle and flesh as the body turns and flexes, and records the manner in which light falls on the skin.

Gérôme's painted nudes of the eighteen-nineties benefited from the intense study of the nude he had taken up as he started to sculpt. The foreground figure is based on his sculpture of 1895 now in the Detroit Institute, itself modelled from direct observation in his studio. Such transpositions provide a fascinating insight into the working methods underlying his finished compositions.

19th Century European Paintings

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London