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Jean-Léon Gérôme (French, 1824-1904)
Jean-Léon Gérôme (French, 1824-1904)

Femme nue

Jean-Léon Gérôme (French, 1824-1904)
Femme nue
signed 'J.L. Gerome.' (lower left)
oil on canvas
12 3/4 x 16 1/8 in. (32.5 x 41 cm.)
Painted circa 1889
Jean-Léon Gérôme, Paris Photographs: Gérôme, Oeuvres, Cabinet des Etampes, Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, Vol. III (illustrated). G. Ackerman, Jean-Léon Gérôme, London, 1986, pp. 266-7, no. 376 (illustrated).
G. Ackerman, Jean-Léon Gérôme, Paris, 2000, pp. 326-7, no. 376 (illustrated).
Sale Room Notice
French period frame c. 1860's, applied ormament and gilded, on loan from Eli Wilner and Company, Inc.,NYC. This frame is available for purchase. Please inquire with the department.

Lot Essay

The present work, Femme nue, is discussed in Ackerman's catalogue raisonné as being either a variant or a preparatory sketch for the slightly larger and finished work titled Femmes au bain (Ackerman, op. cit., 1986, no. 375). Nevertheless, Ackerman adds that the figure of the washing nude female in the present work is superior to the figure in the more complete version of no. 375 - Le nu est plus vivant que dans la version trés finie (Ackerman, op. cit., 2000, p. 326).

Gérôme painted numerous bathing scenes through the 1880's that illustrate both imaginary as well as accurate interiors throughout Turkey, mainly baths of Constantinople as well as Bursa. These images were available to him through the photographs of the Abdullah Fréres firm as well as through his own experiences at such baths where he would not only inhale the spirit of such locales but he would also make as many sketches as possible for future compositions. Gérôme notes one experience at a bath in Bursa - the architect of which was the famous Sinan - 'As the temperature was extremely high, I did not hesitate to make myself ... completely naked; seated on my campstool, my colour box on my knees, my palette in my hand, I was a little grotesque' (Ackerman, op. cit., 1986, p. 110). Naturally, Gérôme would only be allowed in a bath during the dedicated hours for men and his sketches only provided him with backdrops for his compositions - the women depicted were all models posing for Gérôme at his Paris studio.

In the present work Gérôme has chosen not to rely on the dazzling effect of the Iznik tiles, instead he uses highlights and sunrays to make the space shimmer. The streaks of light coming from above lightly touch the walls, brightening them up tremendously and hinting to the damp and moist athmosphere of the bath. The extraordinary finish of the nude figure, the immediacy of her soap soaking feet, the shine of the bronze container and the delicacy of her wooden seat juxtaposed with the faint background adds to the feeling of high temperature in the bath. As figures move to the background the clarity with which they are depicted decreases. The technique is one that has become a favorite of artists following the invention of the camera - the primitive camera lens was not capable of capturing consistent focus in contrast to the human eye.

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