Description William T. Walters commissioned this painting in 1863, but the artist did not deliver it until 20 years later. In a letter to Walters, Gérôme identified the setting as ancient Rome's racecourse, the Circus Maximus. He noted such details as the goal posts and the chariot tracks in the dirt. The seating, however, more closely resembles that of the Colosseum, Rome's amphitheater, in which gladiatorial combats and other spectacles were held. Similarly, the hill in the background surmounted by a colossal statue and a temple is nearer in appearance to the Athenian Acropolis than it is to Rome's Palatine Hill. The artist also commented on the religious fortitude of the victims who were about to suffer martyrdom either by being devoured by the wild beasts or by being smeared with pitch and set ablaze, which also never took place in the Circus Maximus. In this instance, Gérôme, whose paintings were usually admired for their sense of reality, has subordinated historical accuracy to drama. W. M. Brady & Co, New York, in "Drawings and Oil Sketches 1700-1900," 27 January 2009 - 12 February 2009, No. 21, offers "Study for the 'Death of Caesar," an oil on canvas with pen and ink underdrawing, measuring 7 5/8 x 13 in. (19.5 x 33 cm), which formerly belonged to Maurice Aiccardi, Paris. This sketch may be the one that Theophile Gautier alluded to during a visit to the artist's studio in 1858 (G. Ackerman, Jean-Leon Gerome: Monographie revisee 2000, pp. 240-241).
|1/24/1967||Treatment||varnish removed; coated; lined; loss compensation; inpainted|
|3/01/1982||Loan Consideration||examined for loan|
|10/01/1998||Loan Consideration||examined for loan|
- J. L. Gerome. Dayton Art Institute, Dayton; Minneapolis Institute of Art, Minneapolis; The Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore. 1972-1973.
- Romans and Barbarians. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Boston. 1976-1977.
- A Baltimorean in Paris: George A. Lucas, 1860-1909. The Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore. 1979.
- Nineteenth Century French Salon Paintings from Southern Collections. High Museum of Art, Atlanta; Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk; North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh; The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota. 1983.
- Vive la France! French Treasures from the Middle Ages to Monet. The Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore. 1999-2000.
- A Magnificent Age: Masterpieces from the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore. The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore; The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City; Mint Museum of Art, Charlotte. 2002-2004.
- The Spectacular Art of Jean-Léon Gérôme. J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; Musee D'Orsay, Paris; Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid. 2010-2011.
- Public Property. 2012.
- From Rye to Raphael: The Walters Story. The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore. 2014-2016.
Provenance Comissioned by William T. Walters (through George A. Lucas as agent), Baltimore, May 2, 1883  (received in 1883 from the artist); inherited by Henry Walters, Baltimore, 1894; by bequest to Walters Art Museum, 1931.  The Diary of George A. Lucas, p. 563.
Inscriptions [Signature] At left: J. L. Gérôme
Credit Acquired by William T. Walters, 1883
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