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

Frances Vrachos Gallery (Gallery 144)





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


May, 1873, sold by the artist to Goupil et Cie., Paris (stock no. 8120); June 4, 1873, sold by Goupil to James H. Stebbins, New York [see note 1]; 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)

[1] Almost certainly sold by the artist, who was the son-in-law of dealer Adolphe Goupil. As "Le Père Joseph," Getty Provenance Index, Goupil et Cie. records, PI record no. G-10411 (stock book 6, no. 8120, p. 208). Also see PI record no. G-5867 (stock book 7, no. 8824, p. 125), March, 1874, where it is listed as "L'eminence grise."

[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