Our Art / Jean-Léon Gérôme / Bashi-Bazouk

Bashi-Bazouk by Jean-Léon Gérôme
Bashi-Bazouk by Jean-Léon Gérôme

Bashi-Bazouk, 1868

Jean-Léon Gérôme

The young man in this arresting, almost photo-realistic portrait is dressed from head to toe in sumptuous textiles: a gleaming pink silk tunic and tall, elaborately decorated turban. Soft shadows tone down the costume’s visual impact, and bring out the man’s dignified expression and bearing.

Gérôme made this painting after a trip to the Near East, where he acquired the clothing the model is dressed in. The inspiration for the painting’s title is a Turkish phrase — which translates as “headless” — that refers to the unpaid soldiers who fought for plunder under Ottoman leadership, although it’s hard to imagine this man charging into battle wearing such exquisite clothing.

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Credit
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
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