The Age of Augustus, the Birth of Christ

Object Details

Title:

The Age of Augustus, the Birth of Christ

Artist/Maker(s):

Jean-Léon Gérôme (French, 1824 - 1904)

Culture:

French

Date:

about 1852 - 1854

Medium:

Oil on canvas

Dimensions:

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.

Provenance
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.

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

Hôtel Drouot, Paris. Catalogue des tableaux [...] provenant de la succession de M. Victor Borie. February 14-16, 1881, pp. 5, 12, lot 11, introduction by Theodore de Banville.

Claretie, Jules. "J.-L. Gérome." In Grands peintres français et étrangers, pt. 4 (Paris: H. Launette; Goupil, 1886), p. 149.

Galerie Sedelmeyer, Paris. Vente par suite de décès des collections de MM. Haro, père et fils. Tableaux anciens et modernes [...]. May 30-31, 1892, p. 61, lot 95.

Hôtel Drouot, Paris. Vente par suite de décès, collection de M. Haro père. Catalogue des tableaux anciens et modernes [...]. March 31-April 1, 1897, p. 46, lot 152.

Moreau-Vauthier, Charles. Gérôme, peintre et sculpteur, l'homme et l'artiste, d'après sa correspondance, ses notes, les souvenirs de ses élèves et de ses amis (Paris: Hachette, 1906), p. 99.

Hôtel Drouot, Paris. Catalogue des tableaux [...] composant la collection de M. Henri Haro [...]. February 8-9, 1912, p. 9, lot 13.

Jean-Léon Gérôme, 1824-1904, peintre, sculpteur et graveur: ses oeuvres conservées dans les collections françaises publiques et privées, exh. cat. (Vesoul: Ville de Vesoul, 1981), p. 51, under no. 27, entry by Gilles Cugnier.

Sotheby Parke Bernet, Monaco. Tableaux anciens. March 5, 1984, pp. 168-69, lot 1111, ill.

Ackerman, Gerald M. The Life and Work of Jean-Léon Gérôme, with a Catalogue Raisonné (London and New York: Sotheby's, 1986), pp. 37, 42, 198-99, no. 64B, ill.

"Calendar." The Burlington Magazine 128, no. 994 (January 1986), p. 73, fig. 94.

"Acquisitions/1985." The J. Paul Getty Museum Journal 14 (1986), pp. 220-21, no. 130, ill.

Foucart, Bruno. Le renouveau de la peinture religieuse en France (1800-1860) (Paris: Arthéna, 1987), p. 268, fig. 246.

Nicolaus, Frank. "Gérôme: Der letzte Ritter der traditionellen Malerei steigt steil auf und geht qualend langsam unter." Art: Das Kunstmagazin, no. 2 (February 1989), p. 75, ill.

Sotheby's, London. Nineteenth Century European Paintings, Drawings and Watercolors. June 21, 1989, p. 193, under lot 362.

Jaffé, David. Summary Catalogue of European Paintings in the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1997), p. 51, ill.

Ackerman, Gerald M. Jean-Léon Gérôme, 1824-1904: sa vie, son oeuvre (Courbevoie: ACR, 1997), p. 35, ill.

Ackerman, Gerald M. Jean-Léon Gérôme: monographie révisée; catalogue raisonné mis à jour (Courbevoie: ACR, 2000), pp. 40, 228-29, no. 64.2, ill.

Allan, Scott. "The Spectacular Art of Jean-Léon Gérôme." Fine Art Connoisseur 7, no. 4 (August 2010), p. 29, ill.

Des Cars, Laurence, et al. The Spectacular Art of Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824-1904), exh. cat. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, with Skira Flammarion, 2010), pp. 70-73, no. 32, ill., entry by Scott Allan.

Des Cars, Laurence, et al. Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824-1904): l'histoire en spectacle, exh. cat. (Paris: Musée d'Orsay, with Skira Flammarion, 2010), pp. 70-73, no. 32, ill., entry by Scott Allan.

Des Cars, Laurence, et al. Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824-1904), exh. cat. (Madrid: Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, 2011), p. 115, no. 5, ill.