The Carpet Merchant Jean-Leon Gerome Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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French artist Jean-Léon Gérôme spent a lot of time travelling the Middle East and North Africa the created artwork to showcase his experiences. The Carpet Merchant is one such painting. The oil on canvas piece, which he did in 1887, depicts a scene from a regular practice in Egypt.

It was the Court of the Rug Market that Gérôme visited in Cairo in 1885. The French painter was famous for presenting pictures of something he had seen or heard about during his trips. Sometimes he made oil studies then used them for his paintings. In others, he would set up artefacts that he collected to recreate a setting. A good portion of his Orientalist pieces were from imagination.

The Busy Merchant

Carpets are some of the oldest luxury items that people bought for their homes. Arab nations produced some of the biggest carpet merchants in the world. The Carpet Merchant features several figures. However, carpets are the central points. Three large rugs, one looks like a wall-to-wall, are draped on the balcony of a building. They are in a way that buyers can view them without too much trouble. A few other carpets are on the paved court.

The merchant is standing on one of his carpets. To his left is an assistant who looks ready to receive orders. The merchant is conversing with a group of six people. One appears to be a woman, and the rest are men. Each one is elegantly dressed. It looks like a receptive group of buyers that listens to the merchant attentively. Away from the carpet negotiations, another group is visible in the background. A woman is coming out of one of the doorways of the only building in the picture. At the top, from where the displayed carpets are hanging, three men lean on the ledge, looking down at the court.

Exploring Orientalism

Gérôme was one of the artists to embrace Orientalism. He compiled an impressive collection of are depicting various scenes and practices in the Middle East and North Africa. Egyptian architecture does most of the work to bring out the Orientalist style of the painting. Gérôme paid great attention to detail. The patterns on the outside of the building are distinct. Another characteristic of this piece is the vibrant use of colour. From the rugs to the head turbans to the clothes, Gérôme strived to paint a lively scene. The background colours are mute, which allows the foreground to pop. The artist managed to apply colour in a way that gives depth to the artwork.