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The Cock Fight by Jean-Leon Gerome - Description of the Painting



The Cock Fight - Jean-Leon Gerome. Canvas, oil. 143 x 204 cm


“The Cock Fight" or "Young Greeks Attending a Cock Fight" was created by Jean-Leon Gerome at the age of twenty-three. Subsequently, the author happened to hear that the technique applied by him in depicting people was not good enough; however, this painting is one of the first works to bring fame to the artist. It was exhibited at the Salon in 1847 as instructed by the painter's teacher Delaroche.

In the foreground of the picture we can see a boy and a girl, both of them half-naked - a cloth (which could be a part of the chiton) hangs from the boy's hand, while the girl's body is somewhat draped with a translucent thin fabric; she leans on a stone hedge, on which one can notice her yellow-white robe. We can only guess what they were doing before getting captured by the author. Now both of them are passionate about the fight of roosters.

This picture was created in the Neo-Greek style. The subject course is traditionally characterized by meticulousness in details and glazing (meaning the smooth execution manner).

One should pay particular attention to the postures of the young people. The girl's body is soft and plastic, serving as the personification of the Greek beauty standard. The same bodies, relaxed posture, and soft lines can be found in Titian's "Venus of Urbino" or Antonio da Correggio's "Io and Jupiter" canvases. The boy is thin and athletic, and his posture resembles the Cupid sculpture, created by the sculptor Antoine-Denis Chedin. A laurel wreath got tangled in his hair. Both images are created in line with all the canons of Greek classical beauty.

In the background of the painting one can observe the sea and rocks, as well as the young olive trees, forming a purely Greek landscape. The ornament on the stone wall is typically Greek one, known to everyone from the school art classes.

The painting was seriously criticized, since many considered it excessively artificial: the detailed were found to be too elaborated, thus repelling some viewers. One of the critics was the poet Baudelaire, who referred to Jean-Léon Gerome as the leader of the "meticulous school". However, the painting was taken positively by the majority of art critics.
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