Part of my Philadelphia trip included a visit to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. I love to believe that the muses communicate directly with me when I’m in any museum, so I am inclined to go wherever I’m “led”, so to speak. I stepped over to the European art wing, and I got the feeling that I would quickly find something incredible. My intuition didn’t disappoint: less than a few steps into the first room I entered, I was face to face with a painting by one of my favorite artists, Jean-Leon Gerome.
Portal of the Green Mosque (Sentinel at the Sultan’s Tomb), Jean-Leon Gerome, 1870
I’ve written about Gerome before, and back then, I struggled with expressing exactly what it is about his paintings that I love. I *think* I have the language to express myself now LOL! I love the realism in Gerome’s work. His paintings featured lots of African, Middle Eastern and Asian subjects and, unlike many European artists, he chose to depict his subjects humanely, touchingly, and accurately. For that, I’ll always be a fan.
This painting, Portal of the Green Mosque (Sentinel at the Sultan’s Tomb), was completed by Gerome in 1870. By this time, Gerome was a very experienced painter (more than 20 years experience, to be exact) and had quite a few commissions, honors, and his own atelier to his credit. He had established a name for himself and was a master at Orientalist paintings. While many may conclude that Gerome’s work objectified his subjects to the point of being lecherous, I’m inclined to take a different perspective. The combination of “exotic”, non-White subjects and a Neoclassical or Romantic depiction of these subjects results in capturing the subjects’ humanity in ways that had never been done before.
The sentinel depicted is solemn, a little melancholy, but not to be pitied: he seems at peace with his position and dutifully stands in defense of the sultan’s remains. You can sense that this is a hot and hazy day, if the languorous hound in the foreground is any indicator. However, I sense that the dog in the background, that is standing closer to the entrance, is much like the sentinel himself: alert, solemn, ready to defend.
I enjoyed this painting, as I enjoy every other Gerome work that I’ve seen. I know that the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC has several Gerome paintings on view. I intend to make a special trip to view and photograph some of them. Look out for that post soon! In the meantime, enjoy, and I’ll talk to you all tomorrow!