French, 1824-1904
Signed: J. L. Gerome and inscribed SIOT. FONDEUR. PARIS
Gilt bronze, enamel, damascene and semi-precious stones
103 by 80cm.

Price available on request

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Collection of the Artist, circa 1902;
Portakal Sanat Ve Kültür Evi auction house, Istanbul, 29 November 1998, lot 209;
Private collection, London

Paris, Salon 1989, no. 3454;
Los Angeles, The J. Paul Getty Museum, The Spectacular Art of Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824-104), pp. 316-317, cat. 183, June-September 2010

L. Bénédicte, ‘Les Salons de 1898,’ Gazette des Beaux-Arts, 1898, II, pp. 144-45;
A. Proust, Salon de 1898, Paris, 1898, p.30;
Revue encyclopédique Larousse, July 1898, no. 252, p.591;
Revue encyclopédique Larousse, no. 322, Nov. 4, 1899, repr. p. 173;
V. Champier, “Bronzes statuaires, ‘Les industries d’art a l’exposition de 1900’, Paris, 1902, p.161;
L. Bénédicte, ‘Introduction générale. Deuxième partie. Beaux-Arts,’ in Exposition universelle internationale de 1900;
Rapports du jury international, Paris, 1904, p. 572;
L. Liard, ‘Exposition de 1900. – Beaux-Arts’ in Exposition universelle internationale de 1900;
Rapports du jury international, Paris, 1904, p. 716;
J.-L. Gérôme, exh. cat., Vesoul: Musée Georges- Garret, 1981, p. 142
F. Masson, ‘Notes et fragments de J.-L. Gérôme, Les Arts’, no. 26 (Feb. 1904), p.31;
G. Ackerman, ‘Gérôme’s Sculpture: The Problems of Realist Sculpture,’ Arts Magazine, Feb. 1986, p. 86;
C. Chevillot, Emmanuel Fremiet. La main et le multiple, exh. cat. (Dijon: Musée des Beaux-Arts 1988-89), p.38;
G. Ackerman, Jean-Léon Gérôme, London 1986, pp. 324-325, no. S. 47

Tamerlane epitomizes Gérôme’s unique sculptural aesthetic. It is an uncompromising and intense subject matter, handled with resplendent authentic details. It is a sculpture full of colour, in the gilt and bronze patinas, turquoise enamel and semi-precious stones, and is cast by Gérôme’s favourite founder, Edmond-Gustave Siot.

Exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1898 and shown in the recent major retrospective exhibition in France at the Musée d’Orsay, in the USA at the Getty Museum and in Spain at the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Tamerlane surpasses Gérôme’s other historical equestrian subjects, such as Napoleon Entering Cairo, or Caesar Crossing the Rubicon, in its sumptuous decoration in the horse accoutrements and vibrant enamelling.

Whilst Gérôme executed some fabulous large-scale marbles, his natural, pictorial imagination was more suited to the delicacy and intricacy of work in bronze. His attention to detail and enjoyment in the close, personal handling of the model is demonstrated in a photograph of Gérôme working in his comfortable studio, in which a cast, most probably the present outstanding bronze, can be seen. This is the only bronze of Tamerlane that is presently documented. There are no published foundry records that indicate further casts were made, but this cannot be ruled out.

Gérôme was assisted in achieving the remarkable historical accuracy in the Tamerlane by former Russian student Vasily Vasilyevich Vereshchagin. The latter sent his teacher photographs of horse breeds from the Steppes and later an actual uniform with notes on the technical names of the different parts. It has been suggested (Los Angeles, op. cit., p.316) that Gérôme may have been paying tribute to Vereshchagin’s 1871 masterpiece, The Apotheosis of War (The State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow), in the gruesome mound of severed heads on the base of Tamerlane.

Tamerlane received mixed acclaim at the Salon of 1889 with some commentators admiring its ‘savage orientalism’ and others dismissing it as reminiscent of the Cirque d’Eté, the famous entertainment hall on the Champs-Elysées, demolished around 1900.

Today, Tamerlane is recognised as a masterpiece of Gérôme’s unique sense of colour and historic orientalism in sculpture, which rivals the splendour of his best paintings.

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