This painting has recently aroused controversy on an international scale. The German party Alternative für Deutschland used it in its campaign before the elections to the European Parliament. The fragment of the image was placed on the posters and marked with the slogan: “Let Europe not become Eurabia!”. This sparked the opposition of the owner of the painting – Clark Art Institute in Williamstown in the USA, which condemned such political use of the image.

Jean-Léon Gérôme, Slave Market, 1866, Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, USA

What exactly is the “Slave Market” painted in 1866? A group of men dressed in turbans and loose robes watch a female slave for sale. She has a very light skin tone. Author Jean-Léon Gérôme was a renowned academic painter specializing in oriental scenes. In the nineteenth century exotic countries stimulated the imagination of Europeans. It was then that the stereotype of sexual unbridled Middle East, fueled by fantasies about harems, was most alive. In the images that were then created, the female bodies were often easily accessible, enslaved and naked. Muslim men were cast in the role of aggressors. Today, it is assumed that although Gérôme made many trips to Egypt, he never had the opportunity to visit the slave market. Thus, the scene he presented is based on his fantasies and uses the combination of eroticism and the Orient that was extremely popular at the time. It is hard to resist the impression that the fashion for this fantasy remained in force, although its influence has been significantly reduced to particular circles.

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