Monday, March 28, 2011
!00 paintings, L. Gerome
54) Pollice Verso by Jean-Leon Gerome 1824-1904
Painted in 1872 Pollice Verso represents a scene in the Roman coliseum when a victorious gladiator standing over his wounded foe turns to the crowd for them to signal whether the defeated should live or die. Although pollice verso is translated into English as thumbs down, no one today is able to actually tell from period resources whether it meant thumbs up, or down, or perhaps the thumb was hidden in the fist. Literally translated it means with a turned thumb.
This painting inspired the movie Gladiator and a lot of other sword and sandal movies before that.
Gerome was a pupil of Delaroche (who I featured last night). He was refused the Prix de Rome Prize because his figure drawing was weak. In order to study the figure he painted the piece below, The Cockfight.
The cockfight was painted in a tiny garret studio and had a lukewarm reception from the judges and the critics. But the crowds loved it and it made his reputation. Behind the figures is the Bay of Naples that Gerome had visited some years earlier before a fever forced his return to France.
Images from artrenewal.org