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Slave Market

Jean-Léon Gérôme

French, 1824–1904

Slave Market

1866

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.

Medium Oil on canvas
Dimensions 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)
Object Number 1955.53
Acquisition Acquired by Sterling and Francine Clark, 1930
Status On View

Image Caption

Jean-Léon Gérôme, Slave Market, 1866, Oil on canvas. The Clark Art Institute, 1955.53.

Bibliography

Lees, Sarah, ed. Nineteenth-Century European Paintings at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute. Williamstown, MA: Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute; New Haven and London: distributed by Yale University Press, 2012.

Provenance

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].

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