Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Gérôme: Portal of the Green Mosque

Philadelphia Museum of Art
Room 159, Notes

Jean-Léon Gérôme
Portal of the Green Mosque
(Sentinel at the Sultan's Tomb)
c. 1870

Crossing of unusually long firearm with sword representing the two domains of the Ottoman empire (tradition and modernity). Placement of sentinel along right opening creates a suggestion of human support for the architectural extravagance. But the attached column is broken at the right jamb, missing its capital, which we see on the other jamb, where column shaft is gone but capital still survives. The molding on the lower right runs perpendicular to the white tunic of the sentinel, reminding us of the organic origins of classical decoration. The sentinel is engulfed in blackness of half-opened door -- death of the sultan -- behind him. The black sucks his white profile like a black hole. Sentinel becomes a figure that guards and negotiates between the living and the dead. The alert black dog of Hades contrasts with the sleeping white dog in the street.

Green Mosque (Yesil Cami), Bursa, 1420. See here for images of restored portal.

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Kostis Kourelis

Philadelphia, PA, United States