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European Art
Artist: Jean-Léon Gérôme, French, 1824–1904

Ave Caesar! Morituri te salutant (Hail Caesar! We Who Are about to Die Salute You)


Oil on canvas

unframed: 93.1 × 145.4 cm (36 5/8 × 57 1/4 in.)
Gift of C. Ruxton Love, Jr., B.A. 1925
Gérôme considered this painting, submitted to the Salon of 1859 in Paris, one of his most successful compositions. Roman gladiators were an unusual subject, even for historicizing painters like Gérôme. While these scenes look like fanciful reconstructions (especially when seen through the lens of American cinema, which drew heavily on such canvases for inspiration), Gérôme was in fact greatly preoccupied with historical accuracy, studying archaeological excavations and antique weapons. The title is taken from an episode in Suetonius’s Life of the Caesars (second century A.D.); criminals and captives greeted the emperor with these words.
On view
19th century

Salon of 1859, Paris; Goupil's, New York, 1860, no. 70 (as "The Gladiators"); Gambart Collection, London; Christie's, London, 3 May 1861(Gambart to Petit); Petit Collection; Universal Exposition, Paris, 1867 (as property of Eddy Matthews); Graves Collections (Christie's, London, 6 June 1891); Mr. C. Ruxton Love (Parke-Bernet, New York, 18 April 1962, no. 83).


Sotheby’s France, Paris, Tableaux, sculptures et dessins anciens et du XIXe siècle, sale cat. (2002), 100.

William Innes Homer, The Paris Letters of Thomas Eakins (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2009), ill.

Pierre Sérié, La Peinture d’Histoire en France 1860–1900, la lyre ou le poignard (Paris: Arthena, 2014), 61, fig. 44.

Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.