Artist: Jean-Léon Gérôme
Title: General Bonaparte Before the Sphinx (1867-1868)
Signed lower right
One begins naturally with this master, who holds more steadfastly and surely perhaps, than any other of the older painters, all..? the fame gained in earlier years. In the Salon of 1885 he had only one picture, not in his best manner. This year he exhibits two splendid works. They are the same size- that is to say, no larger than his famous "Podium" in Mrs. Stewart's collection. In the more important "General Bonpaparte before the Sphinx" he recalls the finest of his grand series of historical studies. The young Corsican. seated on his horse, is grazing in meditation upon the enormous enigmatic face of stone, that strange memorial of titanic ambitions, of forgotten sovereigns, of a vanished race. His arms are folded, and he is alone. On the sands behind him the low afternoon sun throws forward the shadows of his mounted staff, themselves unseen, and far away in the background, in a valley, is suggested the presence of the encamped army. The master has kept out all distracting details; even those I have mentioned are felt rather than observed, not even the Pyramids are shown - only the cloudless sky, the smooth sand, from whose drifts the gigantic visage rears itself and the solitary, self-communing man.
Source: Pictures for the Salon - The Year's Art in France Out-Lined in Detail....April 24, 1886