The New International Encyclopædia/Gérôme, Jean-Léon
GÉRÔME, zhắ′rṓm′, Jean-Léon (1824-1904). A French painter and sculptor, one of the most eminent artists of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He was born May 11, 1824, at Vesoul, Haute-Saône, France. His father, a goldsmith, encouraged the artistic tendencies of his son. Léon's copy of a picture by Decamps was seen by a friend of Delaroche, which led to Gérôme's entering the atelier of that master in Paris, at the age of fifteen. Three years later he went with Delaroche to Rome. With the exception of a few months with Gleyre, all Gérôme's early training was received from Delaroche. He assisted Delaroche on his picture of “The Passage of the Alps by Charlemagne,” now in the Versailles Museum. In 1847 Gérôme was unsuccessful in the competition for the Prix de Rome, but the picture, a “Greek Cockfight,” now in the Luxembourg, which he exhibited at the Salon of that year, was the sensation of the day. This picture was followed by the “Anacreon, Bacchus, and Cupid” (1848), now in the Museum of Toulouse. In 1848 he won the second-class medal at the Salon. In 1850 he exhibited the “Greek Interior,” and in 1855 the “Acre of Augustus,” an immense picture now in the Museum of Amiens.
All the most splendid qualities of the art of Gérôme appear in the great picture of “Morituri te Salutant” (the “Gladiators Before Cæsar”), which was exhibited in 1859. In 1854 Gérôme visited the Danube provinces, and in 1857 Egypt, stopping at Constantinople on the way. He was made professor of painting at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in 1865, and won a medal of honor at the University Exposition of 1867. He was made chevalier of the Legion of Honor in 1855, officer in 18G7, and afterwards commander.
Gérôme painted an enormous number of pictures, which are largely held in the museums of France. A partial list only can be given. He exhibited the “Phryne Before the Tribunal” in 1861; “The Two Augurs” and the portrait of Rachel in 1861; the “Cleopatra and Cæsar” in 1866; the “Slave Market” and the “Death of Cæsar” in 1867; and the “Promenade in the Harem” in 1869. He painted the “Plague at Marseilles” as a decoration in one of the chapels of the Church of Saint-Sévérin in Paris.
Gérôme exhibited his great picture “Pollice Verso,” companion to the “Gladiators Before Cæsar,” in 1873. These two pictures were considered by the painter himself his best works. Of his later pictures the most important are: “Eminence Grise” (1876); “Rex Tibicen,” “Frederick the Great Before the Bust of Voltaire” (1876); “Saint Jerome” (1878); “Slave Market in Rome” (1884); “Great Bath at Brusa” (1885).
At the Universal Exposition in Paris in 1878, Gérôme made his début as a sculptor of the first rank. He reproduced in bronze, and larger than life, the central group of the “Pollice Verso,” a gladiator standing over his conquered antagonist, and awaiting the signal of the Vestal Virgins, the thumb turned down, which was, according to a supposition now superseded, the death-sign in the arena. The best of Gérôme's later work is in sculpture. The most characteristic is a series of bronze equestrian statuettes, among which are “The Entry of Bonaparte Into Cairo,” “Frederick the Great,” and “Tamerlane.” Consult: Claretie, Peintres et sculpteurs contemporains (Paris, 1884); Cook, Art and Artists of Our Time, vol. i. (New York, 1888); Low, “Gérôme,” in Van Dyke, Modern French Masters (ib., 1896).