Slave Market

A naked woman at center and man at far right are shown in a public courtyard, as prospective slave owners inspect their bodies. Meticulous details like the figures’ clothing, as well as the style of the surrounding architecture, evoke locales such as Egypt and Turkey, where Gérôme spent several months traveling and sketching. Constructed both from imagination and observation, this dehumanizing scene portrays Islamic society as strange, violent, and depraved. Such paintings appealed to France’s assumptions of its own moral superiority as it expanded its colonial empire across North Africa.

Jean-Léon Gérôme

French, 1824–1904

Slave Market


Oil on canvas

33 5/16 x 24 15/16 in. (84.6 x 63.3 cm) Frame: 45 x 36 3/4 x 4 in. (114.3 x 93.3 x 10.2 cm)

Acquired by Sterling and Francine Clark, 1930