Critique on Pollice Verso

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Pollice Verso by Jean-Leon Gerome

Pollice Verso, latin for Thumbs Down, is a realistic painting by Jean-Leon Gerome depicting a gladiator battle in the ancient Roman Coliseum. The scene is of a Gladiator standing over his defeated opponent and looking towards the audience, most likely a group of Vestal Virgins, waiting for their order of whether to kill his opponent or let him live. The Vestal Virgins are seen with their thumbs pointed down, which was the order to kill him. Despite living centuries after the gladiatorial battles in the coliseum, Jean-Leon Gerome, known for his realistic style, is able to realistically portray this brutal scene of a gladiator battle and the values of Roman culture through the use of techniques such as light and perspective and his devotion for historical accuracy, which allows the viewer to better absorb the full emotion of the scene.

Jean-Leon Gerome, a French artist from 1824-1904, was a realistic painter during the rise of impressionism. Gerome was a student of Paul Delaroche's, and gained much renown as a very talented realistic painter. Gerome was a well known champion of realism, and devoted much of his life to campaigning against the growing trend of impressionism. However, impressionism soon became much more popular than the realistic style of Gerome, and his fame and worth plummeted. Nevertheless, Gerome holds high respect in the art community as a very influential artist for his accomplishments as a painter and his influence as a teacher.

As a painter devoted to Realism, the official style of France during his lifetime, Jean-Leon Gerome worked very hard to create as realistic of a scene as he could of the activities of the Coliseum and of Roman culture. He heavily researched Roman society before painting Pollice Verso, allowing him to place a lot of detail into various aspects of the painting. For example, his attention in detail can be seen in his accurate portrayal of the Mirmillo, or swordsman,...
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