Sunday, February 28, 2010


Oedipus (1867) by the French painter Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824–1904).

This histrionic painting was very popular and often reprinted. It shows Napoleon in front of the Sphinx. The hero of mankind facing destiny, trying to answer it’s questions.

This melodramatic face-to-face is furthermore intensified because Gérôme didn’t paint the pyramids which are behind the Sphinx. So it’s only man and destiny in the desert.


  1. Love it :)

    That was the advantage of a painting over a photograph in 1867. Jean-Léon Gérôme could manipulate the landscape to suit his theme; a photographer had to photograph whatever was in the landscape on the day he took the photo.

  2. Yeah, it's a great painting. And it shows that "realism" didn't mean to be photo-realistic.

  3. It is possible to argue that the painting is "taken" from a different angle to the photograph, thus removing the closest pyramid, although the others would have to have been included. But I agree, the symbolism is very strong, so one can allow this poetic licence.

  4. The angle is very similar, so that at least the left pyramid should be seen.
    But if you look for example at paintings by the Hudson River School, there were whole mountains and waterfalls invented.