Photo of Shira



PHOTO CREDIT: Above photo by John Rickman Photography, San Jose, California.

Sabre Dance in a Café

by Jean-Léon Gerôme


Sabre Dance in a Café by Jean-Léon Gerôme



About the Artist & the Painting

This painting was created during the Orientalist movement of art in the 19th century. The artist, Jean-Léon Gerôme, was probably the most famous and most prolific artist of the era. This painting dates to about 1876.

Unlike some of the other artists during the Orientalist era, Gerôme actually spent some time living in Egypt and created many paintings of Egyptian everyday life.

However, we need to be careful when using this painting as evidence of what 19th century dancers and their environment actually looked like. Although Gerôme's paintings appear to be very realistic, there was a certain amount of artistic craftsmanship involved in creating them. For more information about the historical facts surrounding the work of Gerôme and other Orientalist paintings, see the article "Imagining Movement: Orientalist Paintings and Photographs of Middle Eastern Dancers" by Kristen Windmuller, which appears elsewhere on this web site.

This picture served as the inspiration for U.S. dancers in the 1960's to begin experimenting with sword dances, particularly those involving balancing the sword.

No tradition of such dancing survived in Egypt into the 20th century to become a part of Egyptian-style Oriental dance as we know it today. There are some martial-arts oriented sword dances in the Near East, which are done by men, but no women's balancing-type sword dances like the one in this painting.



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