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Title: Gérôme
Author: Keim, Albert, 1876-1947
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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(In the Luxembourg Museum, Paris)

This was Gérôme's first picture. It was exhibited at the Salon of 1847,
and achieved a brilliant success. Théophile Gautier, who was a critic
hard to please, bestowed upon it some enviable praise. In later years
the artist found much to censure in his early work; but the public,
less severely critical, admired the graceful nudity of the young forms
and the combative ardour of the two adversaries.]





  [Illustration: IN SEMPITERNUM.]



  _Printed in the United States of America_


  Introduction        11

  Life of Gérôme      17

  The Artist's Work   43

  The Art of Gérôme   72


     I. Young Greeks Engaged in Cock Fighting  Frontispiece
          (In the Luxembourg Museum)

    II. Reception of the Siamese Ambassadors             14
          (In the Versailles Museum)

   III. Anacreon, with Bacchus and Cupid                 24
          (In the Toulouse Museum)

    IV. Pollice Verso                                    34
          (In a Private Collection, United States)

     V. The Prisoner                                     40
          (In the Nantes Museum)

    VI. The Last Prayer                                  50
          (In a Private Collection, United States)

   VII. The Vendor of Rugs                               60
          (In a Private Collection, United States)

  VIII. The Two Majesties                                70
          (In a Private Collection, United States)



Gérôme has his allotted place among the illustrious French painters
of the Nineteenth Century. He achieved success, honours, official
recognition; and he deserved them, if not for the compelling
personality of his temperament, at least for his assiduous industry,
his accurate, methodical, and picturesque way of seeing people and
things, and the amazing and fertile variety both of his choice and his
interpretation of subjects.

He was a pupil of Paul Delaroche and seems to have inherited the
latter's adroitness in seizing upon the one salient and emotional
detail in a composition. Like that historian-painter of the _Death of
the Duc de Guise_, Gérôme excelled in always giving a dramatic stage
setting to the persons and the events which he knew how to conjure up
with such learned and scrupulous care.

In spite of his versatility, and notwithstanding that many a vast
canvas has demonstrated his ingenious and resourceful talent, he takes
his place beside Meissonier because of the extreme importance that he
attached to accuracy and precise effects.



(In the Museum at Versailles)

This picture possesses a curious interest because it shows in what a
picturesque manner Gérôme could execute a painting officially ordered.
He received the commission in 1865, through the Imperial Household. He
has rendered with much felicity all the pompous and highly coloured
aspect of the scene, very effective in the sumptuous setting of the
Salle des Fêtes at Fontainebleau.]

Although it is some years since he passed away, Gérôme has left behind
him living memories among his friends and pupils, many of whom
have in their turn become masters. Both as man and as artist he was
and still continues to be profoundly regretted, independently of all
divergences of opinion, method, and temperament.

A master of oriental lore, a curious and subtle antiquarian, a
chronicler of ancient and modern life, rigorous at times, but more
often distinguished for his charm and delicacy,--such is Gérôme as he
has revealed himself to us through the medium of his abundant works.

Whether he paints us the men of the Desert and the almas of Egypt,
or shows us the gladiators of the Circus, the death of Caesar, the
leisure hours of Frederick II, the dreams of a Bonaparte, or takes us
to the _Winter Duel in the Bois de Boulogne after the Masked Ball_, a
picture that achieved much popularity, Gérôme never fails to catch and
hold attention by startling contrasts of colour combined with a fine
accuracy of line work.

But what matter the means through which an effect is sought if they
prove successful both in the general impression produced by the work as
a whole and in the charm of the separate details,--in other words, if
the result justifies the effort?

Effort, in Gérôme's case, meant literally a valiant and noble
persistence. He was ceaselessly in search of something new. In spite
of assured fame, he never repainted the same subject. During the
later years of his life, his ambition was to be at the same time an
illustrious painter and a sculptor of recognized merit; and in this
he succeeded. His attempt to revive, after a fashion of his own, the
precious lost art of antique sculpture, although greeted with a wide
divergence of opinions, remains a noteworthy achievement.

On the eve of his eightieth year and abrupt decease, Gérôme still
laboured with the ardour and the splendid faith of youth. He sets an
encouraging example, as fine and as stimulating as the best of his
splendid pictures.


Jean-Léon Gérôme was born at Vesoul on May 11, 1824. Throughout his
life he retained a slight trace of the Franche-Compté accent, which
gave a keener relish to his witty anecdotes and piquant retorts.

He belonged to a family holding an honoured place among the
bourgeoisie. His excellent biographer, M. Moreau-Vauthier, relates that
his grandfather was on the point of taking orders when the Revolution
broke out. His father was a watchmaker and goldsmith at Vesoul. As a
child, he himself was in delicate health.

Nevertheless, he proved himself a good student at the college in the
city of his birth. While there he studied both Greek and Latin. His
instructor in drawing, Cariage, having noticed his early efforts, gave
him much good advice and encouragement.

At the age of fourteen, he copied a picture by Decamps, which had found
its way to Vesoul from Paris. The story goes that his father forthwith
favoured the idea that he should take up the vocation of an artist.
There is no use in exaggerating. As a matter of fact, his family
dreaded the hardships of so hazardous a career. But, upon receiving his
bachelor's degree at the age of sixteen, a degree which at that epoch
was by no means common, he obtained permission to go to the capital and
pursue his studies under the auspices of Paul Delaroche, to whom he was
provided with a letter of introduction.

It is pleasant to picture the young man setting forth alone by
_diligence_ and applying himself bravely to the task of acquiring
talent and renown.

He was most faithful in his attendance at the studio of Delaroche, who,
being the son-in-law of Horace Vernet, possessed at that time not only
a wide reputation as professor, but also an enormous influence both at
the École des Beaux-Arts and at the court of Louis-Philippe.

Delaroche, who has aptly been called the Casimir Delavigne of
painting, a romanticist who stopped short of being a revolutionary,
parted company with the cold traditionalists of the older school in the
profound importance that he attached to accuracy and to the truth and
interest of movement.

Gérôme was destined to draw his inspiration from analogous principles.
While interesting himself profoundly in costumes, in surroundings, in
local colour, he always avoided excess and maintained an almost classic
restraint even in the most modern of his fantasies.

Delaroche's pupils were a lively set. Gérôme found life pleasant in the
studio where Cham amused himself by passing himself off upon strangers
as "the patron," and where his comrades were such men as Alfred Arago,
Hébert, Hamon, Jalabert, Landelle, Picou, and Yvon.

He won their regard by his flow of spirits and his caustic humour.
At this period he supported himself by copying paintings and making
drawings for the newspapers; but, although a small monthly income
of a hundred francs assured him comparative security, he was uneasy.
Although only eighteen, the young man was impatient to show what he
could do. He was seeking his path.

He took his first step towards finding it when he accompanied his
teacher to Italy after the latter had closed his studio. He remained
there for an entire year.

Upon his return, he studied for a time under Gleyre, after which he
worked for some months on Delaroche's _Bonaparte Crossing the Alps_.

In 1847, Gérôme made his début at the Salon with a veritable
master-stroke. At an exposition where Delacroix's _Shipwrecked Bark_
and Couture's _Roman Orgy_ monopolized the public gaze, the young
artist attracted keen attention by his _Young Greeks Engaged in Cock
Fighting_. Théophile Gautier enthusiastically proclaimed the merits of
this work, which brought Gérôme much valued praise and some influential

We shall revert again to this significant canvas, which since 1874 has
hung in the Luxembourg Museum, and with which the artist, when he later
attained full mastery of his art, found all manner of fault.

The first meeting between this painter of twenty-three, upon whom
renown had just begun to smile, and Gautier, magnanimous prince of
criticism and poetry, took place under circumstances that deserve to be

Gérôme was betaking himself to the offices of the _Artiste_, at that
time presided over by Arsène Houssaye; in his hand he held a line
drawing of his own recent idyll of classic times. On the staircase he
encountered Gautier who had paused there, and who began to talk to
him in glowing terms of the Salon and especially of a painting by a
newcomer, named Gérôme.

"But that is I, myself!" cried the young man with keen emotion, and he
showed his drawing to the author of _Enamels and Cameos_.

Continuing to draw his inspiration from antiquity, he set to work with
a stouter heart, in a studio on the Rue de Fleurus, which he shared
with Hamon and Picou, associating with artists and with musicians such
as Lalo and Membrée.

His labours were twice interrupted: first, by an attack of typhoid
fever, through which his mother came to nurse him; and secondly, by the
Revolution of 1848 when, in compliance with the expressed desire of his
comrades, he was appointed adjutant major of the National Guards.

It was about this same period that he received a first class medal and
found himself well advanced upon the road to fame.

"I have always had the nomadic instinct," Gérôme used to declare, and
complacently questioned whether he did not have a strain of gypsy blood
among his ancestors. In his notes and souvenirs, which he entrusted to
his relative and friend, the painter Timbal, he confesses, along with
his various artistic scruples, his passionate love of travel.



(In the Museum at Toulouse)

Gérôme had a magic brush that permitted him to undertake all types of
painting with the same facility. This is how he so often happened to
treat subjects taken from antiquity and was able to render them in all
their classic beauty. It is not without interest to compare him, in
this style of painting, with Nicholas Poussin, whom he admired, and
with Puvis de Chavannes, whose method he execrated.]

He was haunted by a longing to visit Greece, and more especially the
Orient, with its marvellous skies, its resplendent colours, its
barbaric and motley races of men.

In 1853, in the company of a number of friends, he traversed Germany
and Hungary, planning a lengthy visit to Constantinople. Owing to the
war, he was forced to cut short his trip at Galatz. But he brought back
a collection of energetic and striking sketches of Russian soldiers,
which later served good purpose in his _Recreation in Camp, Souvenir
of Moldavia_. And in like manner, in all his distant journeyings,
he invariably showed the same eagerness to seize and transcribe his
original documents, content to let them speak for themselves, without
his having to distort them to fit the special purpose that he had in

This painting found a place in the exposition of 1855, together with
_The Age of Augustus_, a notable achievement in which Gérôme revealed
the measure, if not of his true personality, at least of his lofty
conscience and his integrity as an artist enamoured of accuracy and
truth, even in the imaginary element inseparable from this type of
allegorical apotheosis. Notwithstanding a few dissenting opinions,
these two works were judged at their true value, and Gérôme received
the cross of the Legion of Honour.

At this time he was scarcely more than thirty years old. A most
brilliant career henceforth lay open before him.

Gérôme remains, beyond question, the unrivalled painter of Egypt, whose
aspects, enchanting and sinister alike, he has reproduced in a series
of pictures of finished workmanship and vibrant colouring.

It was in 1856 that, together with a few friends, among others
Bartholdi, then twenty-two years old, he undertook his long tour
through Egypt. To-day, one can go to Cairo or up the Nile as casually
as to Nice or Italy and with almost as little trouble. In those days
it was not a question of a simple excursion, of which any and every
amateur tourist would be capable, but of a veritable expedition.

Unforeseen adventures appealed to Gérôme, for he was brave, energetic,
and eager for new sensations. M. Frédéric Masson, the eminent
historian, who was one of his companions through the desert, has since
shown him to us, in a series of graphic recollections, as perpetually
on his feet, indefatigable, ready to endure any and every vicissitude
for the sake of sketching a site or a silhouette.

His stay in Egypt was for Gérôme a period of enchantment. He has
left, in regard to it, some hasty but expressive notes. He passed
four months on the Nile, well filled months, consecrated to fishing,
hunting, and painting, all the way from Diametta to Philae. He remained
the four succeeding months at Cairo, in an old dwelling that Suliman
Pasha rented to the young Frenchmen. "Happy epoch!" wrote the painter,
"Care-free, full of hope, and with the future before us. The sky was

He returned to Paris with an ample harvest of sketches, a supply of
curious, novel, and striking themes to work up. M. Moreau-Vauthier
shows him to us at that period of his existence, full of unflagging
energy and pleasant enthusiasm, in the company of Brion, Lambert,
Schutzenberger, and Toulmouche,--not to forget his monkey Jacques, who
took his place at the family table arrayed in coat and white cravat,
but would slink away and hide himself in shame when, as a punishment
for some misdeed, they decked him out as a ragpicker.

What jolly parties were held in that "Tea Chest," in which Gérôme then
had his studio, Rue de Notre-Dame-des-Champs! It was the scene of
many a festival, entertainment, and joyous puppet show, attended by
spectators such as Rachel (whose portrait Gérôme painted in 1861), her
sister, George Sand, Baudry, Cabanel, Hébert, and others.

This was, nevertheless, an epoch of prolific work and constant
research. Gérôme passed ceaselessly from one type of painting to
another; one might say that he rested from his exotic landscapes by
evoking, with an ever new lavishness of detail, curious or affecting
scenes from Greek and Roman antiquity.

Thus rewards and successes multiplied, and he experienced all the joys
of triumph. Already honorary member of the Academy of Besançon, he was
appointed professor at the École des Beaux-Arts in 1863, and in 1865,
member of the Institut, where he succeeded Heim.

Meanwhile he fought a duel with revolvers and was gravely wounded. His
mother hastened once again to his bedside and saved his life a second
time. Since the ball had passed through his right arm, complications
affecting his hand were feared. The artist declared that if necessary
he would learn to paint with his left. No sooner was he cured than off
he started again, bound for Egypt, whence he passed to Arabia and, more
venturesome than ever, continued on his way, as one of his biographers
phrased it, "making sketches clear to the summit of Mt. Sinai."

He was destined to make still other journeys, notably that of 1868
in company of Messrs. Bonnet, Frédéric Masson, and Lenoir; and his
companions paid tribute to his unfailing spirits and his powers of
endurance. But at the age of forty he married. The bride was Mlle.
Goupil, daughter of the well-known picture dealer.

He was a thorough man of the world and a favoured guest of the Duc
d'Aumale, who appreciated his ready wit and bought his _After the
Masquerade_ for the sum of 20,000 francs. In 1865 he received from the
Beaux-Arts and the Imperial Household an order for _The Reception of
the Siamese Ambassadors at Fontainebleau_.

Gérôme was also numbered among Compiègne's habitual visitors, along
with Berlioz, Gustave Doré, Guillaume, Merimée, Viollet-le-Duc, and
others. M. Moreau-Vauthier, who with pious zeal has collected the
more interesting anecdotes of his life, relates that he had a special
gift for organizing charades: he was scene setter and costumer. At
Fontainebleau, he took the Empress out alone in a row-boat.

Surrounded by devoted friends, such as Augier, Charles Blanc, Dumas,
Clery, his brother-in-law, Frémiet, Gérôme continued his laborious and
tranquil life in his vast atelier on the Boulevard de Clichy.

His days were passed in drawing and painting in his canvases. Towards
the end of the afternoon he would mount his horse and take a turn
in the Bois. He exhibited annually up to the year of the war. After
that, he lived in a sort of retirement until 1874, when, after a trip
to Algeria with G. Boulanger and Poilpot, he won a medal of honour.
_A Collaboration_, _Rex Tibicen_ (The King Flutist), and _His Gray
Eminence_, exhibited simultaneously, revealed him in full possession of
his ingenious and many-sided art.

New and resounding triumphs awaited him at the Exposition Universelle
of 1878, where he first revealed himself as a sculptor. As a matter
of fact, he had for a long time amused himself at modelling in clay.
He used to go to Frémiet's studio to do his modelling, and Frémiet,
by way of exchange, would come to paint in his. His two groups,
_Gladiators_ and _Anacreon, Bacchus and Cupid_, won him a second class
medal to take its place beside the medal of honour he had previously
received for his paintings. That same year, at the age of fifty-four,
he was raised to the rank of Commander. Cham expressed the joy of all
his friends by writing to him wittily: "I follow the example of your
ribbon, I fall upon your neck."

He was yet to gain still further honours: a first class medal as
sculptor, in 1881; to be declared _Hors Concours_ (Not entered for
Competition) at the Expositions of 1889 and 1900; and to be named Grand
Officer of the Legion of Honour.

From 1880 onward, excepting for a few flying visits to Spain and
Italy, Gérôme lived at his hotel in Paris, where he kept up a rather
lavish establishment, including horses and dogs, up to the time of the
successive deaths of his father and his son. It was the latter for
whose tomb he carved a touching figure of _Grief_.



(In a Private Collection, United States)

The scenes from Roman antiquity repeatedly appealed to Gérôme's talent,
notably in the case of the Games of the Circus, the dramatic value and
brilliant colour of which he fully appreciated. In _Pollice Verso_, he
shows us the victorious gladiator, who, in order to know whether or not
he is to despatch his adversary, turns a questioning glance towards the
Vestals, who invert their thumbs, decreeing death for the vanquished
and gasping opponent.]

His studio at Bougival held him for many a long day, while the season
lasted. While there, he worked with extraordinary assiduity, barely
giving himself time enough to appear among his guests and hastily
swallow a few mouthfuls of the mid-day meal. He owned at one time
another country house at Coulevon, near Vesoul, but this he sold to
one of his former pupils, Muenier. He remained none the less the chief
pride of his native town, where, even during the artist's life, there
was a street bearing the name of Gérôme.

His favourite summering place, however, was in the heart of Normandy
at Saint-Martin, near to Pont-Lévêque, where he possessed a delightful

"He is a charming man, of rare integrity and fascination. Very simple,
too, like all men of real power, who need not exert themselves in
order to prove their strength." It is after this fashion that M. Jules
Claretie sums him up in his exquisite study of _Contemporary Painters
and Sculptors_. M. Frédéric Masson, his faithful friend, has drawn
the following excellent portrait of Gérôme: "A head firmly set upon a
long neck, features vigorously modelled in acute angles, sunken cheeks,
complexion bronzed, eyes brilliant and strangely black, moustache
obstinate and bristling, hair almost kinky, and sprouting in massive
clumps, ... a straight nose set in a lean face, ... figure exceedingly
slender and flexible, waist medium, but well modelled."

Such he appears in his painting of himself as a sculptor in his studio,
absorbed, in his alert and perennially youthful old age, by his new
task of making polychrome statues. M. Aimé Morot, his son-in-law, has
shown him to us in his intimate life, simple, natural, and at one and
the same time alert and caustic. We find him also thoroughly alive in
the fine bust by Carpeaux and in the medal by Chaplain, now in the

M. Dagnan-Bouveret saw him under another aspect. In the portrait he
has given us, we have the master authoritatively proclaiming his
convictions. This distinguished artist, by the way, was formerly a
pupil of Gérôme's. One day when he was complimenting the latter upon
his method of teaching, Gérôme replied, in his loud, assertive voice:
"When I undertake to do a thing, I do it to the very end. I am a man
with a sense of duty."

As professor at the École des Beaux-Arts he continued to fulfil his
duty for a period of forty years. While conducting his classes he
showed himself grave and stern, even sardonic when so inclined. In
front of a canvas too thickly coated, he would exclaim: "The paint shop
man will be pleased"; or perhaps he would move around to get a side
view and then play upon his words, saying: "How that picture stands

He had a good many foreigners in his studio, Spaniards such as La
Gandara, Americans like Bridgman and Harrison, and Russians such as
the celebrated and courageous Verestschagen who, according to M. Léon
Coutil, declared, in speaking of Gérôme, "Next to my dear Skobelof, he
is the most resolute man that I have ever met."

Gérôme was frank and unreserved in his opinions. Having become, so to
speak, the official representative of French painting, he was exposed
to repeated attacks. He did not hesitate to flout unmercifully and to
pursue with a veritable hatred such artists as had adopted formulas
opposed to his own,--and among them some of the biggest and the ones
least open to discussion. M. Besnard, who was not a pupil of his,
nevertheless owed him his Prix de Rome.

Many were the circumstances under which he showed his energetic
firmness; for example, when the Prince de la Moskowa wished to fix a
quarrel on him and prevent him from exhibiting _The Death of Mareschal
Ney_, he evoked this noble declaration from Gérôme: "The painter has
his rights as much as the historian."

[Illustration: PLATE V.--THE PRISONER


(In the Museum of Nantes)

Gérôme had travelled extensively in the East, for he loved its vigorous
colouring and picturesque customs. Here is a scene glimpsed from the
banks of the Nile, and he has transcribed it in this superb picture,
vibrant with colour and harmonious in composition.]

And when a prominent politician criticised the official curriculum
without proposing anything to take its place, it was, according to
M. Moreau-Vauthier, again Gérôme who replied: "Gentlemen, it is
easier to be an incendiary than a fireman!"

This firmness, however, did not prevent him, so this same biographer
points out, from being sensitive to such a degree that he could
not bear to watch a cat of Frémiet's preparing to devour a nest of
sparrows. He used to bring champagne and dainty viands as presents to
his pupils. His humour, so M. Moreau-Vauthier goes on to say, served
as a mask to hide his sentiment. Poilpot, to whom Gérôme was destined
later to give useful counsels for his panorama of Reischoffen, was
working prior to 1870 in his studio. One day he went to show him some
drawings. His master, having looked him over, inquired: "So, then, you
have no shirt?" "No, patron," he replied, "I never wear any." The next
day, Poilpot received a commission for a copy of an official portrait
of Napoleon III, together with an advance payment of 600 francs. This
pretty anecdote does as much honour to the pride of the one as to the
delicacy of the other.

Gérôme sincerely loved the youth, the fantasy, the gaiety of France,
and more especially of Paris. One perceives it in reading the sparkling
preface which he wrote for M. Miguel Zamacoïs' _Articles of Paris_,
blithely illustrated by M. Guillaume. He was not too proud to appear at
costume balls, nor to continue to take an interest in them even after
he had ceased to attend them. He once put his name to a picturesque
sign for a doll shop in the "Old Paris" exhibit at the Exposition. For
an advertisement contest he painted a dog wearing a monocle, with this
amusing inscription and play on words, "_O pti cien_" (_0 petit chien_,
i.e., O little dog). He amused himself by sending to a toy competition,
organized by the prefect of police, a little Pompeiian saleswoman
holding a basket of various toys, and a diminutive police officer
brandishing a white club.

Gérôme had always wished for a sudden and brusque death, "without
physic and without night-cap." He was spared both physical and moral
decline. At the age of seventy-nine he climbed the stairs, four steps
at a time, and sprang upon moving omnibuses running. He died suddenly
of a cerebral congestion, on his return from a dinner which he had
attended together with his colleagues of the Institut, January 10, 1904.


It is difficult to enumerate in detail all the works of Gérôme, whose
originality and energy were inexhaustible. Only a short time before his
death he declared that with the help of the sketches contained in his
cupboards he had material enough to keep him busy for twenty-five years

Instead of attempting to draw up a chronological list of his paintings,
which would be only approximately correct, even if limited to the more
important, it is more profitable to study this conscientious artist
under his principal aspects.

Although he made some talented attempts, Gérôme neither was nor wished
to be a portrait painter, any more than a painter of modern life. He
had, however, as has been pointed out, all the necessary qualities
for this type which demands so much precision and assurance. In _The
Emperor Napoleon III Receiving the Siamese Ambassadors at the Palace
of Fontainebleau_, now in the museum at Versailles, there are eighty
portraits. The artist has represented himself, side by side with
Meissonier, and the story is told that a certain general accorded him a
sitting of only ten minutes.

Besides the large and somewhat sombre portrait of Rachel, which adorns
the Stairway of Artists at the Comédie-Française, and which was painted
from existing likenesses and from memory, there is scarcely anything
else to cite than the portrait of his brother while a student in
the Polytechnic School, a _Head of a Woman_ (1853, at the museum of
Nantes), those of M. Leblond, at Vesoul, mentioned by M. Guillaumin,
of M. A. T. (1864), of Cléry, the great lawyer, and of Charles
Garnier, the celebrated architect of the Opéra.

As a sculptor, Gérôme has left some admirable busts, among others those
of Mme. Sarah Bernhardt, bequeathed to the National Museum, of _General
Cambriels_, of _Henri Lavoix_, the _Monument of Paul Baudry_ destined
for La Roche-sur-Yon, and, most important of all, the _Equestrian
Statue of the Duc d'Aumale_, which is now to be seen at Chantilly, and
the model for which is at the museum of Besançon.

Gérôme had a sincere and profound love for antiquity; with him it was
not the enjoyment of a contemplative mind, a tranquil amateur art, but
that of an historian, an archaeologist coupled with the instinct of a
dramatist, a psychologue, let us say, who is eager to discover, in any
scene whatever, in the graceful or violent gestures of such and such
personages of bygone days, some general application. He was certainly
most anxious to suggest interesting or amusing parallels to modern
life, for, in spite of the dissimilarity of the settings, the tinsels,
the decorations, over which the artist laboured with an almost devout
care of minute detail, human nature to-day is always more or less close
to the human nature of Greece or Rome.

"Exhibit that picture, it will bring you honour," said Paul Delaroche
to his pupil, who had shown him, with much misgiving, the _Young Greeks
Occupied in Cock Fighting_. "It shows originality and style." And
that was his first success (1847). The grace of the young figures won
much admiration. Planche praised the harmony of the composition as a
whole. As to Théophile Gautier, he showed himself, as we have already
said, highly enthusiastic; he declared that the features of the boy
were drawn with extreme subtlety. "As to the cocks," he added, "they
are true prodigies of drawing, animation, and colour; neither Snyders,
nor Woenic, nor Oudry, nor Desportes, nor Rousseau, nor any of the
known animal painters have attained, after twenty years of labour,
the perfection which M. Gérôme has reached at the first attempt." Let
us note immediately that Gérôme was, as a matter of fact, a very great
painter of animals. His dogs, his horses, and his lions are the work of
a masterly observer.

Closely following upon the _Cock Fight_, we must recall _Anacreon
with Bacchus and Cupid_ (1848, Toulouse Museum) which Gérôme himself
characterized as a "lifeless picture," and which nevertheless earned
him a second class medal. Later on he was destined to treat this same
subject in marble (Salon of 1881). The polished and somewhat affected
grace of _Anacreon_ must have especially pleased the painter, because
in 1889 he produced a whole series of compositions of delicious
daintiness, entitled _Cupid Tipsy_. On the same order of ideas, mention
must be made of _Bacchus and Cupid Intoxicated_ (1850, Bordeaux
Museum), and in addition to these, under the head of what may be
called his Hellenic canvases,--in which he succeeded in conjuring up
with magic skill the splendours and graces of that immortal mother of
letters and arts, Greece beloved by the gods,--the following pictures,
_The Idyll_ (1853), full of charm and solid erudition; _The Greek
Interior_ (1856), of sure and penetrating art; _King Candaules_ (1859),
in which the sumptuous beauty of Nyssia illumines the bed-chamber of a
Heraclid, 700 years B.C., and in which the interest of the picturesque
anecdote is enhanced by the artist's marvellous documentary knowledge.

In the same group must be mentioned _Phryne before the Tribunal_ (1861,
reëxhibited in 1867), of charming subtlety, but with a little too much
emphasis, perhaps, on the irony of its psychology; and, of course,
_Socrates Seeking Alcibiades at the House of Aspasia_, analogous in
inspiration, and, as it happens, belonging to the same year; and lastly
_Daphnis and Chloe_ (1898).



(In a Private Collection, United States)

The amphitheatre is filled to overflowing with the crowd that has
gathered to witness the martyrdom of the Christians. Around the vast
circle, unhappy victims agonize upon the cross. In one corner of the
arena, a group of men and women, condemned to die, confess their new
faith in an ardent prayer, while from the opened subterraneous passage
the ravenous beasts are advancing upon their human prey.]

Italy also, with all her memories, furnished Gérôme with scenes of
striking contrast, evoked from the vanished past, spectacles at once
sumptuous and barbaric. He caught this atmosphere with rare
felicity. _Paestum_ (1851) commands attention because of its group of
buffaloes, which the Goncourts praised for "their ponderous weight of
head, the solidity of their huge bulk, the grouping of their attitudes,
the shagginess of their coats, the prevailing sense of grateful

It is necessary to assign a place apart, in this series, for the
_Augustan Age, Birth of Christ_ (1855, Amiens Museum). In his own
private opinion, confided to his cousin Timbal, Gérôme held that
this enormous composition, measuring ten metres in length by seven
in height, lacked inventiveness and originality. It is true that the
artist's personality is not clearly revealed in this picture, which
is a sort of vast commentary on a phrase by Bossuet, and indisputably
draws its inspiration from the _Apotheosis of Homer_ by Ingres.
Nevertheless, no one can dispute its noble qualities, and to borrow a
phrase from Théophile Gautier, its "high philosophic significance."
Beside Augustus Caesar deified appears Rome, in the form of a woman,
helmeted, armed with a buckler, and clad in a red chlamys; then
Tiberius, standing on the right, then statesmen and poets, Caesar,
Cleopatra, Anthony, Brutus, and Cassius grouped together; lastly the
throng of all nations on their knees, admirably rendered. In the
centre, relatively unimportant in this immense assemblage, are the
Virgin Mary, the Infant Jesus, and St. Joseph, treated in a curious
fashion, modelled on the manner of Giotto. "It is the chief ornament of
the Amiens Museum," Gérôme would say jestingly; for he had largely lost
respect for this prolonged and important effort which represented two
years' work of a serious and diligent student of history.

The two flawless masterpieces of Gérôme, the eloquent interpreter of
ancient Rome, are unquestionably his _Ave Caesar, Morituri te Salutant_
(1859), purchased by Mathews, in which, in the presence of a bloated,
overfed Vitellius, sitting pacifically in his imperial box, not far
from the white Vestals, crowned with verbena, gladiators are fighting
and dying in the circus, and _Pollice Verso_ (1874) in which these same
gladiators are represented, no longer as Roman soldiers, but in the
exact costume that they wear at the moment when the Emperor and the
crowd, ravenous for carnage, turn down their thumbs as signal for the
death stroke. This work, published by Goupil, did not appear at the
Salon. We must cite further _Gaius Maximus_, the _Chariot Race_, which
aroused legitimate enthusiasm in America; The _Wild Beasts Entering
the Arena_ (1902) and we must not forget that Gérôme also expended his
energy as a sculptor upon these same attractive gladiatorial figures.

Striking and pathetic contrast is also earnestly striven for and
strongly rendered in _The Death of Caesar_ (1859, 1867). One almost
needs to be an incomparable "stage manager" in order to show the
body of Caesar after this fashion, in the foreground, in the chamber
deserted by the Senators; one Conscript Father, as a touch of satire,
has fallen asleep. The effect is powerful, even though it has been
sought for with too obvious care. Undoubtedly Nadar had the laugh on
his side when he compared the body of Caesar to a bundle of linen and
called the picture "The Day of the Washerwoman." Gérôme appreciated
the humour of this pleasantry. It is equally true that Baudelaire
applauded the picture, exclaiming: "Certainly this time M. Gérôme's
imagination has outdone itself; it passed through a fortunate crisis
when it conceived of Caesar alone, stretched upon the ground before his
overturned throne ... this terrible epitome tells everything."

The clever erudition of the painter, who had already revealed himself
as an adherent of the so-called group of "Pompeiians," in the
_Gyneceum_ (1850),--in which we perceive a group of nude women in the
court of a house in Herculaneum,--asserts itself once more, coupled
with an incisive touch of epigram in _Two Augurs Unable to Look at
Each Other Without Laughing_, and similarly in the _Cave Canem_, now at
Vesoul (in front of a Roman house a slave is playing the role of watch
dog), in the _Sale of Slaves at Rome_ (1884), etc.

A similar ingenuity, with greater amplitude, constitutes the charm
and the surprise of _Cleopatra and Caesar_ (1886). Cleopatra has had
herself brought into Caesar's cabinet in the palace at Alexandria,
concealed in a bundle of clothing. "Her appearance there," said Maxime
du Camp, who also praised the interest of the accessories, treated with
exquisite care, "is perfectly chaste, in spite of her nudity." All the
details are executed with a masterly command of picturesqueness and

As a religious painter Gérôme has to his credit the _Virgin,
Infant Jesus, and St. John_ (1848), a youthful work imitated
from Perugino, a _St. George_, in the church of Saint-Georges at
Vesoul, a _St. Martin Cutting his Mantle_, in the ancient refectory
of Saint-Martin-des-Champs, a _Death of St. Jerome_ (1878) at
Saint-Séverin, a _Moses on Mt. Sinai_, and _The Plague at Marsailles_,
and, most important of all, _Golgotha Consummatum Est_, intensely
lugubrious and symbolic in aspect, with Christ and the two thieves
appearing, through the desolate atmosphere, like writhing shadows on
the cross. This conception cost the author a violent diatribe from
Veuillot, while Edmund About, although making certain reservations,
wrote on the other side: "The entire sum of qualities that are
distinctive of M. Gérôme will be found in this picture."

As a painter of exotic life Gérôme remains an observer of the highest
order. If he has not wholly revealed Italy to us in his _Guardians of
the Herd_ and his _Pifferari_ (1855, 1857), he has at least done so
in the case of Egypt, still deeply impregnated with an ancient and
splendid civilization, naïve and at the same time venerable, Egypt
before the advent of tourists, a luminous land where the Nile and
the Desert reign supreme, a land of magnificence and of savagery.
Landscapes of this Egypt of poetic mystery, and of Palestine as
well, childish or perverse _almas_, rude Albanian Chiefs, Turbaned
Turks,--one never wearies of these decorative effects, these clear
visions, these scenes of animation, whether violent or delicate,
the people, the vegetation, the fabrics, all resplendent under the
marvellous sky of the Orient.

In the company of this intrepid, venturesome and observant traveller,
we witness the passage of _Egyptian Recruits Crossing the Desert_, we
are present at _Prayers in the House of an Albanian Chief_, we pause
in the _Plain of Thebes_, not far from _Memmon and Sesostris_, and
we watch the _Camels at the Drinking Trough_, so admirably realized.
Gérôme, who had a gift for finding the right and pleasing phrase, gave
this rather neat definition of a camel: "The Ship of the Sea of Sand."

Similarly, the _Egyptian Straw-chopper_ (1861, again exhibited in
1867, and purchased by M. Werlé) symbolizes, simply yet forcefully,
agricultural Egypt, and all the varied shadings of her pastoral
poetry. Then again, there is _The Prisoner_ (1863), in which a boat
is making its way along the vast and pacific Nile. Two negro oarsmen,
the master, a bashibazouk, are in the prow; and in the stern, beside a
buffoon, who apparently derides him, while twanging the strings of a
guitar, the prisoner lies cross-wise, fast bound, and abandons himself
to his cruel destiny. There, in a setting of enchanted beauty, we have
the chief actors in this original drama, in which dream and reality are

What a horde of types, some of them bizarre, others simply comic! There
are, taking them as they come, a _Turkish Butcher in Jerusalem_ (1863),
_The Alma_ (Professional Singing Girl--1864), _The Slaves in the Market
Place_, _The Clothing Merchant at Cairo_, _The Albanians Playing Chess_
(1867), The _Itinerant Merchant at Cairo_ (1869). Then there is the
_Promenade of the Harem_, and still others, the _Santon_ (Turkish Monk)
_at the Door of the Mosque_ and _Women at the Bath_ (1876), the
_Arab and his Courser_ and _The Return from the Hunt_ (1878).



(In a Private Collection, United States)

From his numerous journeys to the East, Gérôme brought back many
curious memoranda of picturesque scenes, which he subsequently
converted into brilliant canvases. He excelled in reproducing the
caressing beauty of shimmering carpets and the rippling sheen of silken

In the company of this experienced and reliable guide, we wander from
_Jerusalem_ (1868) to the _Great Bath at Broussa_ (1885), from a
_Corner of Cairo_ to _Medinet_ and _Fayoum_. Here we have the severed
heads in the _Mosque of El Hecanin_, the nude woman in the _Moorish
Bath_, all the barbarity and all the grace of the Orient,--and
invariably the anecdote, whether agreeable or sinister, blends with the
matchless splendour of the landscape.

To this list must be added _Recreation in Camp, a Souvenir of Moldavia_
(Salon of 1854), in which a soldier is dancing before his assembled
comrades, to the sound of drums, fifes, and violins. A sentinel keeps
watch. It is a picture taken in the act, and intensely real.

It is easy to detect the historian, or, to adopt the expression of
M. Jules Claretie, the "Memoir Maker," possessed of the true gift,
agreeable and individual, lurking behind every one of the works of
this authoritative orientalist. He dedicated himself quite naturally
and with great success to the interpretation of history and of the
historic and literary anecdote.

His love of contrasts, his gift for depicting locality and somehow
conveying the very atmosphere belonging to the varied scenes that
are to be brought before the spectator's eye, give amplitude to such
attractive little compositions as _Louis XIV. and Molière_ (1863),
and _A Collaboration_ (1874); evoke the whole sombre tragedy of the
death of Maréchal Ney, _December 7, 1815, Nine o'clock in the Morning_
(1868); and appeal successively to our curiosity, our sympathy, or our
admiration, with a Frederick II., conqueror of Silesia, playing on
his flute, the _King Flutist_ (1874, purchased by M. H. Oppenheim),
_His Gray Eminence_ (1874), in which the austere and dominant Father
Joseph is making his way alone, down the stairway, in the presence
of the obsequious courtiers; a Bonaparte day-dreaming before the
Sphinx, _Oedipus_ (1886), a _Bonaparte at Cairo_ gazing at the town
from the back of his Arab horse, a _Bonaparte in Egypt_, mounted on a
white dromedary, dreaming of his omnipotence, of his conquest of the
universe, and surrounded by his overdriven soldiers.

As a matter of fact, Gérôme made a sort of hero-worship of Napoleon
and the Napoleonic epic, resembling in this respect his friend, M.
Frédéric Masson, the celebrated historian of the Emperor, who was
better qualified than any other writer to pay an eloquent tribute to
this _Bonaparte in Egypt_.

"Bonaparte is no longer on the road to Syria, he is on the road to
India; he is hesitating between the two halves of the world that he
holds in his hands; he is weighing the destiny of Alexander against the
destiny of Cæsar; he is asking himself whether Asia, to which he holds
the key, is a fair exchange for Europe which he has just quitted; and
while his dream embraces the universe, he leaves his human rubbish heap
to suffer."

Gérôme is wholly himself when he has an anecdote to give us, whether
it be subtle, humorous, kindly, or dramatic, and even,--why not use the

Classified thus, _The Duel after the Masquerade_ fully deserves
its brilliant reputation. Reproduced, not only in lithographs and
engravings, but even transferred to the theatre (given at the Gymnase,
in 1881, by Mme. Fould), its subject has become a matter of general
knowledge. It is winter in the Bois de Boulogne. A number of people
in fancy costume are bending over a wounded Pierrot, while one of the
witnesses of this improvised duel is leading away the murderer, the

One can see at once what a tremendous appeal a subject like this would
have for the general public.

This singular drama, taking place in the snow, all this joyousness
ending in bloodshed and perhaps death, is so fantastic that it leaves a
lasting impression. It was, by the way, as M. Guillaumin has explained,
suggested by an actual duel that took place between Deluns-Montaud,
the Harlequin, and the Prefect of Police Bortelle, the Pierrot.

Undoubtedly there was, and still is, ground for criticism. Alexandre
Dumas thought, not unreasonably, that serious-minded men of that
age would not go out to fight each other in such a costume. Edmond
About criticized the pose of Crispin supporting on his knee an
entire group of spectators, along with the body of poor Pierrot. But
Paul de Saint-Victor praised the "truthfulness of the postures, the
etching-like precision of the heads, the wise planning of the whole

In order to appreciate better the daring fantasy and the wise and
invariably picturesque inventiveness of Gérôme, we have only to study
further such works as the Frieze destined to be reproduced upon a vase
commemorative of the Exposition of London (1853), _Rembrandt Etching_
(exhibited in 1867, purchased by M. E. Fould), which has been admired
for its golden half-shadows and freely compared to Gerard Dow, the
_Reception of the Siamese Ambassadors_ (1865), _The First Kiss of
the Sun_ (1886), the _Poet_, _Thirst_ (1888), and fantasies, such
as, _The Amateur of Tulips_, _Whoever you are, here is your Master_;
anecdotal portraits throwing side lights on history, such as: _They are
Conspiring_, or _Not Convenient_, _Louis XI. visiting Cardinal Balue_,
_Promenade of the Court in the Gardens of Versailles_ (1896); animals
full of life and prowess, such as: _The Lioness meeting a Jaguar_
and _Ego nominor Leo_, a lion rendered life size; lastly, his studio
interiors, in which he has chosen to depict himself exactly as he was,
that is to say, a sincere, clear-sighted, and indefatigable workman.

In the most recent of these studio pictures, he appears, wearing a
sculptor's blouse and occupied in modelling a statuette of a woman.
He astonished his friends and admirers, during his last years, by his
earnest labours in sculpture. His two groups, _The Gladiators_ and
_Anacreon, Bacchus and Cupid_, claimed the attention of the public at
the Exposition of 1878; and it was the same with his marble statue of
_Omphale_ (1887), his _Tanagra_, his _Dancing Girl_, his bronze _Lion_
(1890, 1891), etc.

His efforts to revive the art of coloured or polychrome sculpture, the
so-called chryselephantine sculpture, which invokes the aid of various
precious elements, constitute one of the most curious and important
artistic experiments of modern times, even though the result did not
always come up to the expectation.

On February 2, 1892, in an unpublished letter addressed to M. Germain
Bapst, who desired information concerning the artist's experiment,
Gérôme wrote: "I have always been struck with a sense of the coldness
of statues if, when the work is once finished, it is left in its
natural state. I have already made some experiments and am continuing
my efforts, for I am anxious to bring before the eyes of the public a
few demonstrations that I hope will be conclusive. I know that there
are a great many protests. The world always protests against anything
which is, I will not merely say new, but even renewed; for it disturbs
a good many people in their tranquillity and their routine." And after
having first shown that ancient architecture was adorned with colours
and that in chryselephantine sculpture the Greeks combined gold, tin,
and ivory, that they painted the marble and united it with various
metals, Gérôme added: "Shall I succeed? At least I shall have the
honour of having made the attempt."

In the interesting study which M. Germain Bapst devoted to this
question, after having, as we have seen, consulted the artist himself,
he recalled the fact that both in chateaux and in churches the Mediæval
statuary was coloured. In Greece, the Minerva Parthenos contained a
weight of gold equivalent to more than 2,200,000 francs in the French
currency of to-day. The statue of Jupiter at Olympus was partly of
ivory and partly of gold.



(In a Private Collection, United States)

In the mournful immensity of African solitudes, the king of planets
mounts towards the zenith, darting his fires upon the arid land that he
consumes, while the other king of the desert, the lion, contemplates
the triumphant ascension of his rival in the sky. Gérôme has rendered
the scene with an eloquence all the greater because he has employed
such simple means.]

Towards the middle of the nineteenth century, the Duc de Luynes
undertook, in collaboration with the architect Dubau, to produce an
example of chryselephantine sculpture, which cost him more than 500,000
francs and was placed on view at the Exposition Universelle held in the
Palais de l'Industrie in 1855.

Gérôme in his turn made a like attempt, in his _Bellona_, in which,
to remedy the cold immobility of the material, he coloured both
the ivory and the marble and at the same time invoked the aid of
silver, bronze, gold, and enamel. He had associated with him several
experienced collaborators, such as M. Siot-Decauville, who was to cast
the face of Bellona in bronze, Messrs. Moreau-Vauthier and Delacour to
point the ivory, M. Gautruche to attend to the verde-antique and the
electroplating. Lastly, Gallé, and M. Lalique as well, made a number of
trial models for the little head of Medusa.

Among the other examples of Gérôme's sculpture, mention must be made
of _The Entrance of Bonaparte into Cairo_ (1897), _Bonaparte_, a
bust (1897), _Timour-Lang, the Lion Tamer_ (1898), _Frederick the
Great_ (1899), _Washington_ (1901), _The expiring Eagle of Waterloo_,
_The Bowlers_ (1902), _Cupid the Metallurgist_, a statue in bronze,
_Corinth_, a statue in polychrome marble and bronze (1904).


"If you wish to be happy," Gérôme used to say to his pupils, "remain
students all your lives." For his own part he applied himself
ceaselessly to his studies, trusting nothing to chance. He had an
extraordinarily methodical and orderly mind, even in regard to the
smallest details. It is related that, when he was absent on his
travels, he would notify his models several months in advance, so that
they would be on hand to pose for him in his studio, from the very day
of his arrival.

Being partly a traditionalist and partly an independent, he did not
always possess the gift of pleasing the critics, and he loved them
none too well. And when one of them asked him one day for a sketch,
he replied, "I do not pay to be applauded." But he was exceedingly
strict in his self-criticism. In one of his notes entrusted to his
relative Timbal, he wrote: "I am my own severest critic.... I am under
no delusion regarding my works."

On the other hand, and it is well to dwell upon this in order to grasp
his personality, Gérôme was far from being an eclectic. Of the work of
Puvis de Chavannes he said with virulence: "It won't stand analysis,
it is a series of mannikins set on the ground all out of plumb, and
nothing seems to fit in." And he made a play upon words by employing,
in place of Puvis, the Latin word _pulvis_, which signifies dust.

After his appointment as professor at the École des Beaux-Arts, he did
his best to have Manet banished from it. He couched his protest in the
following energetic terms: "I am certain that Manet was capable of
painting good pictures. But he chose to be the apostle of a decadent
fashion, the scrap-work school of art. I, for my part, have been chosen
by the State to teach the orthography of art to young students.... I
do not think it right to offer them as a model the extremely arbitrary
and sensational work of a man who, although gifted with rare qualities,
did not develop them." In his opinion, it would have been more suitable
to exhibit such works in a bar-room than at the Beaux-Arts. M. Coutil
relates that Gérôme said further on this same subject: "The first merit
a painting should have is to be luminous and alluring in colour, and
not dull and obscure."

He had, for that matter, no more tolerance for Millet than for Sisley,
Monet, and Pissaro. On one occasion, he assured M. Jules Claretie that
if Millet could return and again send his canvases to the Salon, he
would refuse them over again! And, when his distinguished interlocutor
protested, "Oh, come now, Gérôme, you don't mean that!" he declared
unhesitatingly, "I mean just that, and nothing else."

Messrs. Moreau-Vauthier and Dagnan-Bouveret have given some very
accurate and useful details regarding his methods of instruction and
of work. They have shown him to us at his task, both as painter and

He emphasized the importance of construction, and of the character
of the form, rather than the form itself, which is a matter of
temperament. He insisted that a scene must be visualized in its
completeness, as a harmonious and fully significant whole. Emile
Augier, for instance, with whom he felt no annoyance at being compared,
the excellent comedian, Got, the younger Dumas, Gounod,--all of these
he loved for their absolute clarity, and he demanded it of them. He
declared that one has no right to paint off-hand, without a model; and
he also held that one has no right to make hasty, careless sketches.

His method was distinguished by its scrupulous and admirable precision.
Impeccable order always reigned in his studio. M. Dagnan-Bouveret
writes that his palette and brushes were scrupulously cared for.
He used to overspread his canvases with a uniform foundation of
half-tones more or less warm or cold, using preparations made by
Troigras. He roughed in the whole picture very rapidly, and this
first rough draft, according to connoisseurs, was always extremely

In his paintings, he proved that the strength of colouring is in
inverse proportion to the intensity of light. He had a marvellous
faculty for making the delicate shadings of nature correspond with the
psychological sentiments that their aspects evoke. From this comes his
amazing variety.

A man of wide reading and deep culture, Gérôme had a profound love for
the truth, for reality just as it is, holding that it is the artist's
first duty to know his place, his time, his episode, and the one
special angle of vision that will give the rarest and most fruitful

On the eve of his death, he was still lauding the merits of
photography, which has the advantage of being able to snatch a document
straight out of life, without falsifying it by giving it a personal
interpretation that must always be more or less inaccurate.

Whatever allowance must be made for what we may call the personal
equation of an artist, his own individual temperament, it is not
unprofitable to recall this opinion of Gérôme's, for it helps us to
acquire a better conception of his art, based as it was upon accuracy
and unwavering truth.

Truth, which he once depicted in her well, killed by liars and
mountebanks (_Mendacibus in histrionibus occisa in puteo jacet alma
Veritas_, Salon of 1895), always charmed and inspired him. He rendered
it more attractive by his admirable sincerity, by his chivalrous and
imaginative spirit, as well as by his archeological and ethnographic

Thanks to this lofty conscientiousness in research, his work, erudite
and entertaining at the same time, making distant and vanished
civilizations live again, and reproducing atmospheres and local
settings with a delicacy that at times is a trifle specious, but
always incomparably picturesque, cannot fail to please and charm to-day
as it did yesterday, and to-morrow as it does to-day.

Accordingly, it is with good reason that M. Soubies has lauded his fine
attention to detail, and that M. Thiebaut-Sisson has summed him up in
the following terms: "The artist created his formula for himself. He
extracted from it the maximum effect that it contained." And even while
we glorify and venerate those painters gifted with a graver or more
lyric vision, a bolder or more laboured craftsmanship, we must freely
subscribe to the opinion of Edmond About when he said of Gérôme: "He
is the subtlest, the most ingenious, the most brilliant ... of his

Transcriber's note:

The following correction have been made:

p. 17 honoured placed among -> placed changed to place

Illustrations were moved to paragraph breaks and a missing comma
was added. Everything else has been retained as printed (including
ambiguous hyphens at the ends of lines). Italics is represented with

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