This is Jean-Léon Gérôme’s The Duel After the Masquerade (1857, Oil, 20″ x 28″), a piece I came across when I was actually looking for another of his works (this one, which may come up again in the future). It struck me as an interesting piece, and a much different palette than many of Gérôme’s other works.
The setting is pretty much explained in the title, we are seeing the aftermath of the duel. The man’s shocked friends hold him helplessly, and it’s one of the more interesting and eye-catching poses I’ve seen.
Gérôme has plenty of choices in the way he sets the characters, but (as in many of his pieces) he chooses a very unique, almost startling pose. We don’t need the title of the piece at all to tell us what has happened, and that this man is in the last seconds of his life.
Gérôme almost removes all of the vibrant colors he normally uses, save for the stark red. In an otherwise neutrally toned piece, the red of the man’s jacket stands out strongly, and leads your eye perfectly into the small red slash on the dying man’s outfit. Gérôme uses the palette brilliantly, and even though there are the men walking away and the dark jacket and robe standing out to the right, your eye is immediately drawn to the drama on the left through that bright red and the brighter contrasts and colors.
Gérôme’s composition is the final addition to a nice piece. The characters to the left are larger, and more highlighted, while the men on the right, the victors, almost pass into nothingness. The drama to the right has passed, and we are here to bear witness to the final dying drama of the man on the left.