The Horse Marketc. 1867 by
Gerome, Jean-Leon 1824-1904
The Horse Market dates from the first decade of Gerome's Orientalist subjects and is one of many representations of a commercial transaction, in this case the selling of an elegant chestnut Arabian being trotted out for a prospective buyer.
This painting displays those qualities for which Gerome was famous. His finely rendered details successfully evoke an Eastern setting, yet they are controlled by a carefully constructed composition. The rough texture of the decaying wall sets off the silky coat of the horse, while a strategically placed shadow brings forward the customers in their multicolored garb. Gerome's keenness of observation is noticeable in the anatomy of the horse and the way the older man's head sinks heavily between his shoulders, in contrast to the young man behind him.
Gerome's detailed rendering of costumes and architecture creates an effect of authenticity, but the scene itself is an imaginary construction, since the projecting latticed window of Egyptian style has incongruous Indian or Indonesian supports. Such factual discrepancies result from the artist's working methods and his interest in picturesque effects. He did not usually sketch entire scenes during his travels, only details, which become the basis for compositions worked up in his Paris studio. Despite the inconstantly detail, Gerome succeeds in evoking an exotic world.
The specific event depicted in unusual in Gerome's oeuvre. It may arise from his constant search for new themes and from his new interest in the horse during the 1860s. Yet the central motif of a groom leading a horse has many antecedents, going back to the famous Parthenon frieze with its complex procession of men and horses.
Size (inches): 22 1/2 x 17 3/4
Medium: Oil on Panel
Location: McKee Room