1. Write a personal reflection on Jean-Léon Gérôme THE SNAKE CHARMER. This should be based on your own
observations, thoughts, feelings. Please use this portion of the discussion to
discuss the formal elements and subject matter.
2. Discuss the cultural
changes happening during the period covered in the reading. Compare that
culture to contemporary American culture. This should be a personal reflection
of the comparison of cultures from your perspective/experience, not a
summary of the text.
You may use the internet to research.
From the textbook:
In The Snake Charmer, French academic painter Jean-León Gérôme
(1824–1904) luxuriates in the nineteenth-century fantasy of the Middle
East—an example of Orientalism in art. A young boy, entirely naked,
handles a python, while an older man beside him plays a fi pple fl ute,
and a huddled audience sits in the background shadows. The setting
is a large blue-tiled room, painted with an almost photographic clarity
and attention to detail, leading us to think that this is an accurate
representation of a specifi c event in an actual place. Gérôme traveled
to the Middle East several times, and was praised by critics of the
1855 Salon for his ethnographic accuracy, but his Snake Charmer is
a complete fi ction, mixing Egyptian, Turkish, and Indian cultures
together in a fantasized pastiche.
The French fascination with Middle Eastern cultures dates to
Napoleon’s 1798 invasion of Egypt and his wanton looting of objects
from the country for the Louvre Museum, which he opened in 1804.
In the 1840s and 1850s, photographic studios were established by
British, French, and Italian photographers at major tourist sites in the
Middle East in order to provide photographs for European visitors
and armchair tourists at home, thus satisfying and fueling a popular
interest in the region.
Orientalism is found in both academic and avant-garde modern
art; we have already encountered it in the Neoclassicism of Ingres (SEE
FIG. 17–16). The scholar Edward Said described Orientalism as the
colonial gaze in which the colonizer gazes upon the colonized Orient
(the Middle East rather than Asia) as something to possess, as a
“primitive” or “exotic” playground for the “civilized” European visitor,
in which “native” men are savage and despotic and “native” women—
and here boys—are sensuously described and sexually alluring.