“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 was a French painter and sculptor, and his oeuvre included historical paintings, Greek mythology, Orientalism and portraits in the academic painting tradition.
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
- Artist: Jean-Léon Gérôme
- Born: 1824 – Vesoul, Haute-Saône, France
- Died: 1904 (aged 79) – Paris, France
- Nationality: French
- Movement: Academicism, Orientalism
- Notable works:
“Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.”Napoleon Bonaparte
Photo Credit: 1) Jean-Léon Gérôme [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons; Sources: 1) Wikipedia; 2) Walters Art Museum web resources.