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Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites

“The Duel After the Masquerade” by Jean-Léon Gérôme

"The Duel After the Masquerade" by Jean-Léon Gérôme

“The Duel After the Masquerade” by Jean-Léon Gérôme

“The Duel After the Masquerade” by Jean-Léon Gérôme depicts a man dressed as a Pierrot who has been mortally wounded in a sword duel and has collapsed into the arms of a friend. A surgeon, dressed as a Doge of Venice, tries to stop the flow of blood, while the third person dressed as a priest clutches his head. The scene is set on a grey winter morning in forest, trees bare and snow covering the ground.

The survivor of the duel is dressed as an American Indian; he is shown walking away with his shoulders and head hunched down, he is supported by his second, who is dressed as Harlequin. The wounded man is still holding his sword, in contrast to the victor who has dropped his sword, suggesting that the wounded duelist started the contest of honour. The bizarreness of the scene with all the characters dressed for a Masquerade with brightly coloured costumes has turned into a tragedy.

A duel is an agreed engagement of combat between two people, with matched weapons, based on accepted Dueling Rules. Duels were mainly practised in early modern Europe with precedents in the medieval code of honour and continued into early 20th centuries. Duels were mostly fought with swords, but by the late 18th century in England, duels contests were more commonly fought using pistols.

The most notorious American duel was the Burr-Hamilton duel, in which Alexander Hamilton was fatally wounded by his political rival, the sitting Vice President of the United States Aaron Burr. Another American politician, Andrew Jackson, later to become the seventh president, fought at least two duels. In 1842, future President Abraham Lincoln, who at the time was an Illinois state legislator, met to duel with state auditor James Shields, but their seconds intervened and persuaded them against it.

The painting is a replica by Gérôme of his 1857 work “Suite d’un bal masqué”. It was not unusual for artists to replicate their pictures and other versions.

Jean-Léon Gérôme

Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824 – 1904) was a French painter and sculptor, and his body of work includes historical paintings, Greek Mythology, Orientalism and portraits in the academic painting tradition.

Academic Art

Academic art is a style of painting, sculpture, and architecture produced under the influence of European academies of art. Academies using the French model formed throughout Europe, and imitated the teachings and styles of the French Académie. From England, with the Royal Academy to Denmark with its Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts which was founded in 1754, European society was saturated with academic art by the end of the 19th century.

Ten Duel Commandments

“Ten Duel Commandments” is the fifteenth song from Act 1 of the musical Hamilton, based on the life of Alexander Hamilton. Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote both the music and lyrics to the song. These Duel Commandments are for duelling pistols and not sword duels, however, they are interesting to reflect on, for this art piece. In summary, they are:

  1. A  challenge demands satisfaction unless there is an apology
  2. Appoint a friend to be your second
  3. The seconds meet to negotiate peace or a time and place
  4. Organise for a doctor
  5. Organise a secret location, not in public
  6. Leave a note for your family
  7. Pray and confess your sins
  8. The seconds take the last opportunity to negotiate
  9. Count to Ten
  10. Fire pistols or attack with swords

Reflections on Duels

  • Duels have a long history. What is Today’s equivalent of a Duel?
  • Is Twitter today’s equivalent of a Duel?

The Duel After the Masquerade

  • Title:                    The Duel After the Masquerade
  • Artist:                  Jean-Léon Gérôme
  • Year:                    1859
  • Type:                   Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions:      39.1 cm (15.3 in); 56.3 cm (22.1 in)
  • Museum:            Walters Art Museum

Jean-Léon Gérôme

  • Artist:                Jean-Léon Gérôme
  • Born:                 1824 – Vesoul, Haute-Saône, France
  • Died:                  1904 (aged 79) – Paris, France
  • Nationality:      French
  • Movement:       Academicism, Orientalism
  • Notable works:

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“Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.”
– Napoleon Bonaparte

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Photo Credit: 1) Jean-Léon Gérôme [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons; Sources:  1) Wikipedia; 2) Walters Art Museum web resources.

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