L'Eminence Grise

Jean-Léon Gérôme (French, 1824–1904)


68.6 x 101 cm (27 x 39 3/4 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Oil on canvas

On View

Polly B. and Richard D. Hill Gallery (Gallery 253)





Gérôme’s art epitomized the officially sanctioned, academic style against which the Impressionists rebelled. His paintings, with their imperceptible brushwork, meticulous detail, and brilliant effects of color and light, commanded huge prices in both France and America. L’Eminence Grise recreates the palace of Cardinal Richelieu, the “Red Cardinal,” virtual ruler of France during the childhood of Louis XIII. Descending the staircase is Richelieu’s chief adviser, François Le Clerc du Trembly, a Capuchin friar known as L’Eminence grise (the Gray Cardinal), a term that has come to mean “the power behind the throne.”


Lower right: J.L. GEROME


1873, sold by the artist, through Adolphe Goupil, Paris, to James H. Stebbins, New York; February 12, 1889, Stebbins sale, American Art Association, New York, lot 76, to M. B. Mason, Boston for Susan Cornelia Clarke (Mrs. Samuel Dennis) Warren (b. 1825 - d. 1901), Boston [see note 2]; January 8, 1903, Mrs. S. D. Warren sale, American Art Association, New York, lot 113, to Samuel Putnam Avery, New York, for the MFA for $16,000. (Accession Date: January 13, 1903) NOTES: [1] According to Gerald M. Ackerman, "The Life and Work of Jean-Léon Gérôme" (London, 1986), p. 234, cat. no. 233, Goupil sold this to Stebbins in 1873. Goupil was Gérôme's father-in-law and dealer and almost certainly sold this on the artist's behalf. [2] As annoted in a copy of the auction catalogue (reproduction in curatorial file). The buyer may have been Mortimer Blake Mason (b. 1850 - d. 1909), the nephew, friend, and business partner of S. D. Warren. See Martin Green, "The Mount Vernon Street Warrens" (New York, 1989). Mrs. Warren lent the painting to the World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893, Department K - Fine Arts, cat. no. 2924.

Credit Line

Bequest of Susan Cornelia Warren