Artibus et Historiae no. 59 (XXX)

2009, ISSN 0391-9064

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JEAN-FRANÇOIS CORPATAUX - Phryne, Venus and Galatea in the Studio of Jean-Léon Gérôme

The article explores the importance of different art media in Jean-Léon Gérôme's work by interrogating the connections between painting, sculpture and photography, particularly with regard to their iconographic implications.

We begin our analysis with Phryné devant l'Aréopage (1861). Théophile Gautier said that the central figure of this painting resembled a "living statue". This paradigmatic commentary will accompany us throughout the analysis of the painting, as we seek to understand Gérôme's compositional strategies. We will discover that the elements of photographic and sculptural imagery, which the artist integrates in his painting, are the keys for understanding the central figure.

The core of this study is devoted to Gérôme's paintings created around 1890, in which the interaction of different media reaches its peak. This allows the model to appear simultaneously "animated" and "petrified". As a result were created highly modern paintings, which bear strong similarity to photographs. Playing with different media allows the artist to reclaim the myth of Medusa and Pygmalion, as well as the legends of Phryne, in his "tableau vivant" as Venus. He gives these figures a renewed representation, thanks to the interchangeable models and the coalescence of myths.

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