The Slave Market (Gérôme painting)  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

The Slave Market[1] (Le Marché d'esclaves) is an 1866 painting by the French artist Jean-Léon Gérôme. It depicts an unspecific Middle Eastern or North African setting where a man inspects the teeth of a nude, female slave. It depicts a a typical scene of white slavery in which a nude female slave is examined by a potential buyer. A similar painting is Purchase of a Slave (1857) is a painting by Jean-Léon Gérôme.

The painting was bought by Adolphe Goupil on 23 August 1866 and exhibited at the Salon in 1867. It was bought and sold several times until Robert Sterling Clark bought it in 1930. Since 1955 it is part of the Clark Art Institute's collection.

Along with Gérôme's The Snake Charmer, The Slave Market has become an iconic example of 19th-century orientalist art.


Maxime Du Camp, who had travelled extensively in the Near East, reviewed the painting from the 1867 Salon. He located the motif to Cairo's slave market and described the painting as "a scene done on the spot".

Du Camp wrote:

It is one of these [more expensive] women, an Abyssinian, that M. Gérôme has taken as the principal figure of his composition. She is nude and being displayed by the djellab, who has the fine head of a brigand accustomed to every sort of abduction and violence; the idea of the eternal soul must not very often have tormented such a bandit. The poor girl is standing, submissive, humble, resigned, with a fatalistic passivity that the painter has very skillfully rendered.

Gender and sexuality

In an art historical context, harem scenes depicted domestic spaces for the women in the Muslim societies, the males were only included in barbaric and sexual relations. This painting presents an unspecific Middle Eastern or North African setting in which a man inspects the teeth of a nude, female slave. Women were depicted with a passive sexuality, while the men were depicted as violent and disrespectful towards women.

See also

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