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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Phryne before the Areopagus

Phryne before the Areopagus

Artist: Jean Léone Gérôme
Title: Phryne before the Areopagus/ Phryné devant l'Aréopage 1861
Signed lower left
Medium: Oil on canvas/huile sur toile
Size: 31.5 x 50.5 in. (80.5 x 128 cm)
Location: as of 2007 at Hamburg Kunsthalle, Germany
French Orientalist


In my ARC book the colors of the robes are a more saturated red. I shall look for a better scan of this image.

In December 2007 I went to Hamburg and saw this painting at the Kunsthalle. I was struck by how smooth the surface was. When one looks at a Gerome it is very hard to figure out weather the painting was done on a canvas or a panel, since his handling of paint is such that no brush strokes or elevation of paint is visible.

At first glance the men in their red robes seem to be all wearing the same colored robes, yet Gerome changes the hues ever so slightly, to achieve a sense of depth and the illusion of space in a fairly narrow pictorial space. The closest figure to the viewer has the most saturated red garment on. This saturation decreases with each robe he paints and becomes not only more muted but also darker in value with each new person as they take their place in this confined space.

Another trick he employs to create a sense of space is that he lavishes great detail in both facial features and treatment of garments and props on those in the foreground. As I studied the paintings I noticed that he each new row of individuals was treated with decreasing attention to detail.
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