16
16
Jean-Léon Gérôme
FRENCH
CLÉOPÂTRE ET CÉSAR
Estimate
40,00060,000
JUMP TO LOT
16
Jean-Léon Gérôme
FRENCH
CLÉOPÂTRE ET CÉSAR
Estimate
40,00060,000
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

19th Century European Paintings

|
London

Jean-Léon Gérôme
1824 - 1904
FRENCH
CLÉOPÂTRE ET CÉSAR

The authenticity of this work has been confirmed by Gerald Ackerman in 2004.

Provenance

Aimé Morot (1850-1913, the artist's son-in-law, married to Gérôme's daughter Suzanne Mélaine Gérôme. His Monument à Gérôme in the Musée d'Orsay depicts Gérôme at work sculpting his Gladiators in 1878)
Sale: Sotheby's Parke-Bernet, New York, 1962
Schweitzer Gallery, New York (by 1966)
Mme Huisse, Rouen (by 1970)
Private Collection, Paris (by 1984)
Private Collection, Germany
Purchased from the above by the previous owner in 1994

Literature

Gerald Ackerman, The Life and Work of Jean-Léon Gérôme, London, 1986, p. 218, no. 159B, described
Gerald Ackerman, La Vie et l'oeuvre de Jean-Léon Gérôme, Courbevoie-Paris, 2000, p. 258, no. 159.2, described

Catalogue Note

According to Plutarch, Cleopatra, unable to find access to a busy Julius Caesar after his conquest of Egypt, had herself wrapped in bedding and delivered to his office by her friend Apollodorus the Sicilian. Gérôme has turned the bulky bedding into a fine carpet, a tradition continued by Bernard Shaw for his play Caesar and Cleopatra. A little dizzy from her uncomfortable jaunt, she balances herself with the fingers of her left hand on the back of the slave unwrapping her, as she stands up and, by her pose and expression, commands the attention of the dictator.

The present work is one of two known preparatory oil paintings for the larger version Cléopatra et César of 1866 (fig. 1). Several related drawings show Gérôme experimenting with the composition further. In some, Cleopatra is revealed lying on the opened rug, looking up as Caesar walks towards her. In the present work, Caesar looks up blandly from his desk, as if distracted and disturbed in his thought. This is much like in the finished version, except that there the pensive Caesar, still seated at his desk, looks up and holds his arms out in astonishment. In the finished version Gérôme also added Caesar's four secretaries. The setting is from a plate of the Temple of Deir el Medinah in the Napoleonic publication, The Description of Egypt.

Cléopatra et César
was an important commission for the new mansion on the Champs-Elysées of Madame de Paiva, a famous courtesan, who was nonetheless not pleased with the finished painting, and returned it. The large oil was subsequently bought by Gérôme's father-in-law, Goupil. By the time it was exhibited at the annual exhibition of the Royal Academy in 1871 the painting had already, according to Fanny Field Hering, 'achieved worldwide renown' (Fanny Field Hering, The Life and Work of Jean-Léon Gérôme, New York, 1892, p. 112).

Among the many references Gérôme incorporates into the present painting, is one to himself, in the form of the lion's head that decorates the clasp of Cleopatra's belt. His middle name being Léon, his association with a lion offered Gérôme a teasing opportunity for visual punning in his paintings which often played on his own sense of sexual allure. In the present work the appearance of the lion's head to decorate Cleopatra's waist band seems suggestively appropriate given Madame de Paiva's proclivities.

19th Century European Paintings

|
London