Throughout the history of painting, artists of all ages have used a multitude of themes to justify the nude, and especially the female nude. In this way, mythological, historical or even religious paintings were presented to painters as a mere excuse to be able to represent scantily clad women.
Jean Léon Gérome (1824 – 1904) was one of the most illustrious artists of the classicist period who worked in both painting and sculpture. It seems that the artist was able to train with Delaroche with whom he traveled through Europe and from his hand he received the first artistic recognitions. In the middle of the century, the artist made one of the trips that would most influence him throughout his life and his career: Egypt. There Gérome will set many of his paintings that, later, were highly valued by the Academy and, in fact, the work that we are analyzing here is set in the exoticism of Africa that attracted so much attention of the artist.
Gérome had already made other paintings dealing with the subject of slavery before, but most of them had been set in ancient Rome where the sale of slaves was a very common practice. Slave Market is a vertical format oil on canvas measuring about eighty-five centimeters high and just over sixty-three wide; the piece is on display in the Sterling Clark Collection.
In thisoccasion the artist places the scene in what appears to be an open-air market - although in reality, Gérome is not known to have been in such a market during his trip to Egypt- where a naked young woman occupies the center of the composition. The young woman has one leg slightly bent, causing a curve in her hip that reminds us of the ancient sculptures of Praxiteles; meanwhile, the buyerexamines her teethas if she were an animal more than a person, and behind them, the seller smiles with pleasure at her impending sale