In the context of examining the Städels
nineteenth-century holdings in view of the imminent reopening or new presentation of the museums collections respectively, an important painting by the French academic painter Jean-Léon Gérôme (18241904) has been discovered. The picture shows Saint Jerome reclining against a lion, his traditional attribute. After its comprehensive restoration, the painting will be on display for the first time as part of the Städels new permanent Modern Art (1800-1945) presentation. The work was last exhibited in London in 1882.
Jean-Léon Gérôme ranks among the most successful artists of the second half of the nineteenth century. His pictures are to be found among the exhibits of the most prominent American, British and French museums permanent presentations. To date, the collections of the Hamburger Kunsthalle were the only ones in Germany which boasted works by this artist which have become objects of special attention again in recent years. The Gérôme retrospective shown in the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, the Musée dOrsay in Paris, and the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid in 2010/11 testifies to the great importance attached to this star of the nineteenth-century salon again today.
Jean-Léon Gérômes Saint Jérôme was donated to the Städel by Otto Haucks heirs in 1935. In the turmoil of the Nazi era and World War II, the painting entrusted to the museum by the banking family was not inventoried or described in detail, but merely assigned an access number. In the course of the current preparations for the reopening or new presentation of all the museums collections, Dr. Felix Krämer, head of the modern art department, recognized the painting as a capital work by Gérôme. The work has been carefully restored and conserved by Christiane Haeseler in the Städel Museums restoration workshop in the last months. When the museums completely new presentation Modern Art (18001945) in the renovated garden wing of the old museum building will be opened on November 17, 2011, Gérômes Saint Jérôme will be accessible to the public for the first time again.
The painting Saint Jérôme dates from 1874, the peak of Gérômes career. Unlike no other artist, Gérôme combined technical perfection with the sensuous atmosphere of sentimental historical painting and the clichés of the Orient. The likeness of names Jérôme and Gérôme allows an ironical reading. The rediscovered painting reveals a technical mastership that does not even stop at the saints grimy fingernails and the dirt under his feet.