Artist: Jean Léone Gérôme
Title: Young Greeks at the Mosque
Signed upper left 1865
Medium: Oil on Panel
Size: 15x11 in (38x28cm)
The year is 1674, and on the great Escalier des Ambassadeurs, in Versailles, Louis XIV is welcoming the Grand Condé, who has just defeated William of Orange in the battle of Seneffe. This event marked the end of almost fifteen years of exile for the Grand Condé, which had been designed by the king to punish "his cousin" for leading the Fronde against the monarchy.
Gérôme concentrated all his passion for historical reconstruction into this modest-sized painting, making use of different iconographic sources to lend the scene more credibility such as engravings of the Château de Versailles and portraits of the various persons represented.The composition is made dynamic by the high-angle view and the off-centring of the large compositional X structure. Gérôme employed a delicate palette in which the overall sense of clarity and the cool tones of the marble are invigorated by the colours of the costumes and flags.
In making this painting, Gérôme was hoping to find a buyer in the Duke of Aumale who was about to move into the Château de Chantilly, the Condés' former property. However, the transaction failed and the painting was sold to the American millionaire William Henry Vanderbilt instead. From 1886 to 1903 it was loaned to the Metropolitan Museum in New York, while the work became widely known in France through multiple engravings. After the second world war, it fell into relative obscurity. Source: Musée d'Orsay
The baroness Charlotte de Rothschild (1825-1899), who married her cousin Nathaniel (1812-1870) in 1842, was brought up surrounded by the artists her parents received and so went on to become a welcome figure in the world of artists and musicians. In 1835, Frederic Chopin, her piano teacher, dedicated one of his two opus 69 waltzes to her. However, she was more interested in visual arts than music and became a watercolorist, participating regularly at the Salon, and later in the exhibitions of the Société des Aquarellistes. The Baroness was also a remarkable collector with a taste for a variety of styles, as is suggested here by the eclectic and luxurious décor which surrounds her.
The portrait, painted by Gérôme in 1866, pays homage to Ingres'1848 portrait of the model's mother, Betty (1805-1886), which is housed in a private collection. Gerôme used a similar technique to Ingres; smooth and precise with sumptuous effects such as the marbled reflections of the dress, and he also borrowed the Ingres' positioning of the hand, supporting the chin.
Female portraits by Gérôme are rare; this is the first to enter the Musée d'Orsay collections, and only the third to be recorded in the French national collections. As well as representing the baroness Nathaniel de Rothschild, one of the mid-19th centuries most renowned figures, the portrait also embodies the atmosphere of the Parisian society of the age.
Source: Musée d'Orsay