Jean-Léon Gérôme (French, 1824–1904)
Bathsheba, ca. 1895
Plaster, 33 1/16 in. (including proper base)
In 1889, Gérôme painted a picture entitled Bathsheba (private collection) that depicts a nude woman bathing on a roof terrace in a Middle Eastern town, in the company of a female servant. Seven years later, he translated his two-dimensional Biblical heroine into a sculpture, of which the present work is a rare plaster version. Gérôme’s sculptural oeuvre (which is considerable for one who came to the medium late in his career) reflects his longstanding interest in the classical world and his desire for archaeologically authentic representation. Thus, emulating ancient sculptors, Gérôme sought to revive the practice of painting marble sculpture, which he did most famously with his Tanagra of 1890 (Musée d’Orsay, Paris). He also tinted the plaster of this Bathsheba, which retains clear remnants of its original coloring on the hair and urn. The sculpture is signed and dedicated: a mon eleve et ami / Courtois / J L Gerome. Gustave Courtois (1853–1923) had studied painting with Gérôme and was a close friend of one of Gérôme’s favorite pupils, Pascal-Adolphe-Jean Dagnan-Bouveret (1852–1929).