Portrait of an Egyptian Fellah

Jean-Léon Gérômeabout 1856

The J. Paul Getty Museum

The J. Paul Getty Museum
Los Angeles, United States

Gérôme made this keenly observed portrait of a fellah (peasant) from life, during the first of several visits he made to Egypt. The drawing served as a study for a painting (now lost) portraying Egyptian farm laborers at work. Later, Gérôme's pupil Charles Bargue included a lithograph after it in their influential teaching manual, Drawing Course (1866 - 1871). The drawing depicted one of only two non-European subjects in the book. In contrast to the Romantic artists Géricault and Delacroix, Gérôme's approach seems dispassionate and documentary. Despite the apparent realism of his drawings, however, they are seldom objective records. Gérôme often used such "authentic" details to construct scenes that appealed to Western fantasies about the East.

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