Slave Market

Slave Market

Jean-Leon Gerome, French, 1824-1904


Oil on Canvas


A young woman has been stripped by a slave trader and presented to a group of fully clothed men for examination. A prospective buyer probes her teeth. This disturbing scene is set in a courtyard market intended to suggest the Near East. The vague, distant location allowed nineteenth-century French viewers to censure the practice of slavery, which was outlawed in Europe, while enjoying a look at the female body.

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Compare the fully clothed buyer to the completely nude woman.

How would the painting change if the young woman was fully clothed?


Are the onlookers in the scene also guilty for not taking an active role against the sale of this woman?

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