The complexity of this painting effort has many aspects and questions for me. First, I wondered about the title Bashi-Bazouk. Was it the man's name, who is he, etc.?? Well after some research of the Met's documentation and other web searches, I learned that this painting was painted by J L Gerome in the 1860s, after he returned from a trip to Egypt and Turkey, using artifacts that he had collected on the trip. Gerome originally titled it with a Turkish word that meant "Headdress", quite appropriate I would say. It was later changed to Bashi-Bazouk by some unknown source!?!? A Bashi-Bazouk was the name of unpaid warriors, that survived on plunder, under the Ottoman Empire. The puzzling thing is that this headdress is not the same as any other depiction of Ottoman Bashi-Bazouks that I could find, which are generally some type of turban. It is hard to imagine someone going into battle with such a magnificent large headdress and such a beautiful embroidered silk jacket! Oh well, the truth remains a mystery to me, but the image is one of shear beauty.
The second complexity was that the poster we were given for reference to paint from was so dark that you could hardly discern the image. The following is an approximation of the poster.
After quite a bit of searching I came up with two big helps. First, my son-in-law works at the Met and would go look at the original and send me photos and personal descriptions. He even spoke with the curator responsible for the painting. The other personal break-through came when I brightened the Met's digital image on my computer in iPhoto. Suddenly I could see what the sitter must have looked like!!! The following is the image of the face and headdress that I developed.
But wait! This image was not right either. I had my son-in-law to keep me honest. He said the colors were not right in this image! He also warned me that this was a very dark painting, all be it beautiful. He kept trying to describe the painting to me and sent me several versions of his photos. The following photo was the one he felt was most accurate. However, we discovered that the same image would look different on different computer screens!
Another area of amazement is the level of detail that Gerome painted into this work! If you click on the brightened image of the head and headdress above you can see the rather amazing level of detail. Notice the individual hairs adorning various portions of the headdress! The embroidery is another area of detail. When I zoomed in on the embroidery on the left arm, which is quite dark, I found an embroidered floweret! I would never have seen it without digital magnification. The nails on the handle of the weapon protruding above his right arm has individual nail heads depicted in perfect tromploi. There are many more instances. One of which is that I discovered secret symbolism embedded into the mottling in the background near the right edge of the painting opposite his face, that only becomes obvious upon brighting the image! After painting this work you realize that every mark Gerome put on the canvas was preconceived. I do not think that there would be any random marks that look like symbols.
For me, this painting is magical. When you brighten it, and when you enlarge it, you discover things that you would never guess being there. I have never seen another image like this. Just to see, I brightened and enlarged a Caravaggio the other day. I found no surprises! It was also a dark painting, but what you saw is all there was to see! This further enhanced the mystery for me of the Gerome Bashi-Bazouk!!!
I am wondering if this is one of those paintings that was much brighter when it was painted, and as it has darkened with age concealing many of these amazing details. My son-in-law asked the curator who said it is just a dark painting. Well, I am not sure of this. I must go and see it for myself!!!
Another magical quality of this painting is the coloration. I was able to paint 95% of this image with three tube colors! These were Phthalo Green (Blue Shade), Naphthol Red Light, and Hansa Yellow Medium. And 99% with four tube colors, by Adding Quinacridone Magenta. These are very bright colors, but combined to make a very subdued painting.
Notice that there are purples and blues in the painting, but there is no blue on my pallet! The purples and blues were achived by mixing Phthalo Green and Quinacridone Magenta as described in the Color Mixiing section of the My Painting Methodology section of my website. Yes red and green do make blue!
It was amazing to see what may look like many different colors pop out of my color pools of paint derived from three tubes of color! I will describe more of this in a later addition to the post. Needless to say I felt like my pallet was coloring the image for me and was being driven by the mind of Gerome himself.
In summary, this painting has been an amazing experience for me! Thank you J L Gerome, and Scott Nickerson for choosing Bashi-Bazouk for the class project!