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Gerome: Introductory and Critical

Gerome: A Collection of the Works of J.L. Gerome in One Hundred Photgravures. Multiple Volumes. New York: Samuel L. Hall, 1881.


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INTRODUCTORY AND CRITICAL

bestridden by the monstrous Gaul, theirs is the arbitration of life or death; and behold / the arena whitens with their leaping arms and fills with their breath, all demanding his destruction. What painter, what playwright, ever imagined such a situation, as these purest creatures, immaculate as ermines, bloodthirsty as tigers, throng the picture with their consenting harmony of vindictiveness ? When was ever such a pencil of light concentrated on one of the moments that paint an epoch? It is not the correctness or incorrectness of the archaeology that affects me in this painting. Gerome now says that the archaeology of the "Ave Caesar" is defective, and that of the "Pollice Verso" much improved It is neither for better or worse antiquarianism that I appreciate the pictures; if they were as ignorant as a pair of Rembrandts, the great brain which found such a theme as either would still seem to me astonishing, one of the rarest of human intelligences. In similar preeminence of invention the painter deals with the "Death of Caesar."

How the architecture focuses with the scheme, fills it out, gives it emphasis and order! What painter ever invented such a combination, in which tessellated floors, and colonnades hung with the galley prows of the pirates, seem to assist the drama, and to surge and cluster with the groups? In the "Caesar," as in the "Ney," the device of leaving a dead body alone with the spectator in extremes/ foreground, and separated by a void space from the other personages of the scene, is used with bewildering effect, the impression being helped by the inexorable reality with which the bodies are designed At another time he determines to elucidate the Greek temper, throwing over every consideration for that of beauty, as no other historical temper ever did He might select Helen and the Elders, but that is an old story-; he takes the majestic Areopagus, forgetting Eumendean justice and hoary order before the bosom of Phryne / In the "Nile Prisoner" he shows some proud Mameluke carried to Mohammed All for a sentence of injustice, with a smiling Spahi playing the mandolin in his ear, like a musical insect that sings and stings. In the "Egyptian Recruits," the free men of the desert render themselves up to military slavery, patient and sad, with the liberties of the desert around them. In "Dante" he has revealed the curse of human loneliness of the man who had seen hell. In fifty at least of his more deliberate inventions—and, I repeat, I would judge no producer by his ephemerae—this great inventor, in whose mind Heaven has placed the power of tragedy, has created a tableau of consum-



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