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

14 comments: said...

Was the "Cock Fight" suppose to be shock art for that time? I am probably alone here but I think this particular painting is silly. Gerome, however, is a master and he is allowed to be silly every once and a while.

Anonymous said...

Police Verso was my favorite painting at the Phoenix Museum of Art. I guess that demonstrates my poor tastes, because elite art critics look down on this genre.

My3Starz said...

I love how the judges and critics were like "meh" for the cockfight when you see the stuff hanging some places today :)

Lefteris C said...

Pollice Verso looks like it could have been painted today. Violent themes were not rare back in those days, but this one has a brutal realism like Frazetta's paintings.

barbara b. land of boz said...

Thank you for the was very enlightening. (;~}

billspaintingmn said...

The first Gerome I ever saw was the carpet merchants.
I was hooked and looked for more.
I give 'em a thumbs up!

Richard J. Luschek II said...

Great choices here. I love these paintings.
We need to bring back some of the subjects you have been posting lately. When is the last time you saw a good romantic decapitation scene done? I really should paint more cockfight pictures.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I don't think it was a shocker then, but I am not sure. It was very popular and reproduced a lot.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I too have deplorable taste.

Stapleton Kearns said...

The critics are experts on crafts they themselves do not practice.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I imagine Frazetta knew this painting.

Stapleton Kearns said...

You are welcome.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I will give that one an 85, it has a good beat to dance to, but I don't think it will make the charts!

Stapleton Kearns said...

I thin that decapitations should be very marketable, cockfights with nudes have always been popular.