Woman’s head with ram horns is an 1853 portrait oil on canvas painting in the Academic style by French artist and sculptor Jean-Léon Gérôme.
Analysis of Woman’s Head with Ram Horns
Jean-Leon Gerome’s Woman’s Head with Ram Horns is a peculiar piece of art. At first glance, it seems to be a portrait. But if one knows about the history of academic painting, it enlightens the background of this painting.
Jean-Leon Gerome was a famed academic painter. He was a student and later, professor of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts which was the influencer and founder of the academic arts. style He would have been the stylistic opposite of the Impressionists and the status quo of the 19th Century.
There is a hierarchy of subject matter in academic painting. Historical paintings were the most prestigious subject to paint which would include biblical stories and Greek mythologies. The lowest is the still life genre.
The other name of this painting is The Bacchante. The name refers to a female votary of Bacchus. Bacchus was a Roman god of revelry and wine, and the Roman version of Dionysus who had satyr companions. Though most satyrs and fauns are male this painting depicts a female faun. This means this painting is a historical painting as it depicts Roman mythology.
Later Jean-Leon Gerome would move on to a genre which he is also known for, Orientalism. He would take a grand tour of the middle east, starting from Egypt and ending in Damascus. The Orientalism movement is problematic. The paintings were usually more fantasy of the middle east than real accounts.
An example is Gerome’s The Slave Market which depicts a naked fair-skinned woman being sold as a slave. This would not be a far assumption as even Gerome’s depiction of European mythology was sexual fantasies in the guise of a loft subject matter.
The issue is in Orientalism the depiction of the middle east as a fictional place. Gerome would return to the Classics when he returned to Paris. His Magnus Opus would be Truth Coming Out of the Well. The painting depicts a woman coming out of the well stark naked and angry. It is implied that the woman survived a murder attempt or is a secret coming out of the well. It was called the Mona Lisa of its time.
Jean-Leon Gerome was a successful artist of the 19th century as most academic artists were. Now, in turn of tables, the Impressionists overshadow his name. Gerome was an artist of his time while Impressionists chose subject matter that became universal despite the era.