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Jean-Léon Gérôme
French, 1824–1904
The Hoop Dancer, ca. 1890
Gilt bronze
H. 9 1/4 in. x W. 4 1/2 in. x L. 4 1/2 in.
IUAM 94.85

Gérôme had his first success as a painter at the Salon of 1847. Six years earlier, he had left his native city of Vesoul to study in Paris, first with Paul Delaroche, then with Charles Gleyre. From then on, he was a success, receiving government commissions and honors, such as the Legion of Honor. He became a member of the Institut de France, a professor at the École des Beaux-Arts, a visitor at the court of the Empress, the husband of a very rich woman, a popular teacher, and a very famous painter.

In 1878, at the age of fifty-four, he made another professional change. He sent a large bronze group, The Gladiators, to the Exposition Universelle, and it won a Medal of Honor. From then on, his time was spent on sculpture: he took advice and lessons from his old friend, Emmanuel Fremiet (1824–1910). In fact, as late as 1901, he listed himself in the sculpture section of the Salon catalogue as "student of M. Fremiet.''

Like most French sculptors of his time, Gérôme did his modeling in plaster. He made his plasters life-size, working close to the model so that he could compare and measure both the model and the plaster. Gérôme was so proud of his accuracy that he often had the plaster and the model photographed together so that their similarity could be marveled at. He enjoyed experimenting in ways to enhance his media: tinting his marbles to make them lifelike, mixing materials such as bronze, marble, and ivory to attain more sumptuous effects in his small bronzes.

In the Salon of 1890, Gérôme exhibited a most original work, Tanagra, a tinted marble nude meant to be the Tyche, or Fortune, of the ancient Greek city. Tanagra is seated upright on an excavation mound; at her feet is a pick axe, and sticking out of the soil of the mound are the heads and feet of statuettes. On the palm of her extended left hand she holds a small imitation Tanagran figurine, a hoop dancer. The next year, 1891, Gérôme issued a small bronze based on the hoop dancer in Tanagra's hand. More than a hundred casts of the gilt bronze in a smaller size were sold.

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