The Age of Augustus, the Birth of Christ

Object Details


The Age of Augustus, the Birth of Christ


Jean-Léon Gérôme (French, 1824 - 1904)




about 1852 - 1854


Oil on canvas


37.1 x 55.2 cm (14 5/8 x 21 3/4 in.)

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At the apex of this theatrically arranged study, Augustus Caesar sits in front of the Temple of Janus and touches the shoulder of a man personifying Rome. Surrounding him are scholars and statesmen while foreign tribes gather below. The Nativity scene in the foreground illustrates the coincidental moment of world peace under Augustus when Christ was born.

In 1852, Jean-Léon Gérôme received a state commission to paint a large mural of an allegorical subject of his choosing. In selecting this subject, Gérôme perhaps sought to flatter Emperor Napoleon III, whose government commissioned the painting and who was identified as a "new Augustus."

In preparation for his large mural, Gérôme traveled all over to find the appropriate ethnic types to portray the different peoples of the ancient world. When The Age of Augustus, The Birth of Christ was shown in 1855 at the Universal Exposition, his skill in depicting various nationalities led some to remark that Gérôme gave a lesson whenever he painted a picture.

1852/1854 -

Jean-Léon Gérôme, French, 1824 - 1904 (Paris, France), by gift to Victor Borie, before 1881.

- 1881

Victor Borie (Paris, France) [sold, Borie sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, February 14-16, 1881, lot 11]

- 1897

Etienne-François Haro, 1827 - 1897 [unsold, MM. Haro sale, Galerie Sedelmeyer, Paris, May 30-31, 1892, lot 95 ("La Chute de l'Empire romain"); unsold, Etienne-François Haro sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, April 2, 1897, lot 152 ("La Chute de l'Empire romain")], possibly owned jointly with his son, Henri Haro, or by inheritance to the same, 1897.

1897 - 1912

Henri Haro, 1855 - 1911 (Paris, France) [sold, Henri Haro sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, February 9, 1912, lot 13 ("La chute de l'Empire romain")]

- 1984

Private Collection [sold, Sotheby's, Monte Carlo, March 5, 1984, lot 1111, to Wheelock Whitney & Co.]

1984 - 1985

Wheelock Whitney & Co. (New York, New York), sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1985.

The Spectacular Art of Jean-Léon Gérôme / Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824-1904): L'histoire en spectacle (June 15, 2010 to June 12, 2011) (Cat. 32)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), June 15 to September 12, 2010
  • Musée d'Orsay, (Paris), October 18, 2010 to January 23, 2011
  • Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, (Madrid), February 15 to May 22, 2011