Friday, December 23, 2016

Jean-Leon Gerome: Consummatum est

Photo: Oil on canvas painting titled Jerusalem or Consummatum est (1867) by Jean-Leon Gerome, 82 cm × 144.5 cm (32 in × 56.9 in), currently at Musée d’Orsay, Paris

Jerusalem, also called Golgotha, Consumatum Est or The Crucifixion (La Crucifixion), dated 1867, is an oil painting by the French sculptor and painter Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824-1904). When it was first exhibited at the Salon of 1868, the spectators were confused, and it attracted negative reviews because of the unconventional technique or unusual way he chose to depict the subject.

Gerome was one of the best among scholastic lot of the artistic circles of his time, well-travelled, and was ahead of his times in depicting artistic subjects.

The actual scene of the crucifixion is not there in the picture, but there is more than that. As an immediate answer to what most of the people returning to their homes are looking at and pointing to, including the soldiers, there is the shadow of three men on the foreground, Mount Golgotha, where Jesus was crucified positioning him between two thieves. In the background is the city of Jerusalem under a clouded sky, where the crowd of people is returning to.

The painting Consumatum Est marked Gerome’s return to history painting after he travelled much through some of the countries of the Middle East and North Africa and explored Orientalism. His travels and works of the period gave the actual pictures to the art world which used to depict what was traditionally and academically shown rather than what was real. For instance, his depiction of the real lives of the people of the Muslim countries he travelled, can be seen several of his works.

The choice of the title too is out of the ordinary, as Consummatum est refers to Christ's last words (John 19:30), “It is completed”, or “It is all over”.

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