Pirates normands au IVe siècle (Norman Pirates in the Ninth Century) 1894, oil on canvas by Évariste Vital Luminais, French, 1822-1896. Musée Anne de Beaujeu, Moulins, France.
Luminais called “the painter of the Gauls” shows pirates taking what they want in one of their raids. He was a history artist and won a number of awards for his work including the Légion d’honneur at the Paris Salon in 1869.
This arresting picture was made after Gérôme returned to Paris from a twelve-week journey to the Near East in early 1868. He was at the height of his career when he dressed a model in his studio with textiles he had acquired during the expedition. The artist’s Turkish title for this picture—which translates as “headless"—evokes the unpaid irregular soldiers who fought ferociously for plunder under Ottoman leadership, although it is difficult to imagine this man charging into battle wearing such an exquisite silk tunic. Gérôme’s virtuosic treatment of textures provides a sumptuous counterpoint to the figure’s dignified bearing. (MET)