Slave Market

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A young woman has been stripped by a slave trader and presented to a group of fully clothed men for examination. A prospective buyer probes her teeth. This disturbing scene is set in a courtyard market intended to suggest the Near East. The vague, distant location allowed nineteenth-century French viewers to censure the practice of slavery, which was outlawed in Europe, while enjoying a look at the female body.


The artist, sold to Goupil, 23 Aug. 1866, as Un marché d’esclaves; [Goupil, Paris, sold to Gambart, 22 Sept. 1866]¹; [Ernest Gambart, London, 1866, returned to Goupil, Nov. 1866]; [Goupil, Paris, Nov. 1866, sold to Mayer, 27 Jan. 1867, as Marchand d’esclaves];² [Mayer,
Dresden, from 1867];³ [Knoedler, Paris, sold to Clark, 1 May 1930, as Marché d’Esclaves]; Robert Sterling Clark (1930–55); Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, 1955.

1. Goupil Stock Books, book 3, p. 94, no. 2355.
2. Goupil Stock Books, book 3, p. 119, no. 2598. The buyer is recorded only as “M. Mayer, de Dresde.” Gambart had returned The Slave Market to Goupil in exchange for a second version of Gérôme’s Louis XIV and Molière [A 139; Goupil Stock Books, book 3, p. 119, no. 2597]. See also Gérôme & Goupil: Art and Enterprise, exh. cat., 2000–2001, p. 132, under no. 91.
3. Mayer purchased the painting in Jan. 1867, but since it was shown in the Paris Salon, which opened on 15 April, he may not have taken possession of the work until after its exhibition. This painting has also, erroneously, been catalogued as belonging to the August Belmont collection, but this confuses it with a painting often similarly titled The Slave Market now in the Cincinnati Art Museum [A 217].

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