Jean-Léon GÉROME


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Status, price and estimation of the artist Jean-Léon GÉROME

Price of a painting signed Gérome: 10,000 – 3,000,000€.

Estimate of a drawing or watercolour by the artist for auction: 200 – 6,000€.

Artist’s status for a sculpture: 500 – 250,000€.

Presentation of the artist

Jean-Léon Gérôme was one of the main representatives of academic painting in the Second Empire, promoted Grand Officer of the Legion of Honour and distinguished at various Universal Exhibitions. He was also a talented sculptor. He was, without doubt, a very unorthodox painter of history.

Creator of a new trend: the neo-Greek movement

A pupil of the painter Paul Delaroche – trained by the neo-classical painter Jacques-Louis David – he followed him to Italy for a few years before returning to Paris. Upon his return, Delaroche made a name for himself at the 1847 Salon with his oil The Cock Fight, for which he was awarded the gold medal and thus became the leader of a new movement – the neo-Greeks.

This movement, led by Gustave Boulanger and Jean-Louis Hamon among others, sought to move away from Davidian neoclassicism and thus renew European genre painting by referring to Greek antiquity with a certain erudition, integrating intimate scenes and archaeological settings.

From the fantasised Orient to idealised historical scenes

From 1857 onwards, Gérôme made numerous trips to Egypt and drew inspiration for his paintings from his unknown landscapes. Indeed, the visit to the Orient became an initiatory journey for European painters such as Delacroix or Ingres in search of a renewal of academic painting. The success of the pictorial movement of Orientalism revealed how much the Orient was above all for artists a land of colours. The realisation of Gérôme’s paintings is based on a recomposition in the studio of scenes inspired by his excursions, such as The Door of the El-Hasanein Mosque, The Snake Charming or A Walk in the Harem.

Jean-Léon Gérôme is also known for his highly dramatised historical scenes, idealised in relation to traditional historical paintings, as advocated by Napoleon III at the time. In the vein of the orientalist movement, he reconstructed reality with the help of his historical knowledge and imagination. We can take Louis XIV and Molière as an example, as well as the Reception of the Grand Condé at Versailles.

Polychrome and precious sculptures

Gérôme began his career as a sculptor in his late fifties and presented his group The Gladiators, inspired by his own paintings, at the Universal Exhibition of 1878. The characteristic feature of his sculptures is that the majority of them are polychrome, inspired by the antique and rare sculptures of the time - like his Bellone, a polychrome sculpture in ivory. He also created a series of busts of conquerors, using gold, silver and gems, such as Bonaparte entering Cairo and Frederick the Great.

It is also interesting to point out that Gérôme was one of the first artists to be photographed in front of his creations, both painted and sculpted. Moreover, upon his death, the artist bequeathed the photographic reproduction of all his works to the National Library of France.

His enmity towards the avant-garde, especially the Impressionists, whom he considered the “disgrace of French  art”, caused his pictorial work fall into oblivion after his death, before being rediscovered and admired at the end of the 20th century. His influence then became essential to the decorations of epic Italian cinemas and Hollywood productions.

Among his main works can be cited: Young Greeks Kicking Cocks (1846) ; Phryne before the Areopagus (1861) ; Bonaparte before the Sphinx (1867) ; The Merchant of Colour (1890).

Notable auctions

  • Christie’s London, 2008, Veiled Circassian Beauty, €2,582,877 (record bid)
  • Christie’s London, 2018, Arnaut with two whippet dogs, €762,440
  • Christie’s London, 2018, Arnaut blowing smoke at the nose of his dog, €1,234,453

Appraise and sell a painting by Jean-Léon GÉROME

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