Bashi-bazouks, mercenary soldiers in the army of the Turkish sultan, were known for their lawlessness and brutality, but Gérôme usually depicted them at leisure, as he did here, rather than engaged in battle. His frequent repetitions of the subject over a thirty-year period, in conjunction with a technique that matured early and changed little, make these canvases difficult to date on the basis of style alone. Gérôme probably completed this painting soon before he sold it to his Parisian dealer, Goupil, in 1884.
Inscription: Signed (center left): J.L. GEROME
[Goupil, Paris, 1884; stock no. 17025; purchased from the artist on April 3, 1884, as "Fondeur de balles dans un café," for Fr 12,500; sold on June 28 for Fr 22,500 to Knoedler]; [Knoedler, New York, 1884; stock no. 4636; sold on November 13 for $8,500 to Morgan]; Mrs. Mary J. Morgan, New York (1884–d. 1885; her estate sale, American Art Association, New York, March 3–5, 1886, no. 221, as "Coffee House — Cairo," for $4,800 to Cook); Henry H. Cook, New York (1886–d. 1905)
Fort Worth. Carnegie Public Library. "(AFA circulating exhibition)," 1920.
Jules Claretie inGrands peintres français et étrangers. Vol. 1, Paris, 1884, ill. p. 153, reprints Goupil's photogravure of it.
"The Morgan Collection of Paintings." Art Amateur 13 (October 1885), p. 89.
"The Art Sale Finished: Sharp Bidding for the Morgan Collection." New York Times (March 6, 1886), p. 5, erroneously states that it sold for $4,000 at the Morgan sale.
"The Sale of the Morgan Pictures." Art Amateur 14 (April 1886), p. 99, states that Morgan purchased it from Schaus for $8,500.
C. H. Stranahan. A History of French Painting from its Earliest to its Latest Practice. New York, 1888, p. 319, relates that it brought $4,800 at the sale of Mrs. Morgan's collection in 1886.
Fanny Field Hering. Gérôme: The Life and Works of Jean Léon Gérôme. New York, 1892, p. 242, calls it "Casting Bullets" (interior) and includes it in a list of less familiar photogravures.
John Denison Champlin Jr. and Charles C. Perkins, ed. Cyclopedia of Painters and Paintings. New York, 1892, vol. 4, p. 480 of supplement, call it "Coffee House, Cairo," and list it as sold in the Morgan sale of 1886 for $4,800.
"Metropolitan Museum Loan Exhibition." American Magazine of Art (February 1920), pp. 142–43, ill., mentions it traveling in a loan exhibition organized by the American Federation of the Arts.
Charles Sterling and Margaretta M. Salinger. French Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Vol. 2, XIX Century. New York, 1966, pp. 171–72, ill., date it after Gérôme's first trip to Egypt in 1867.
Richard Ettinghausen inJean-Léon Gérôme, 1824–1904. Exh. cat., Dayton Art Institute. 1972, p. 18.
Gerald M. Ackerman. The Life and Work of Jean-Léon Gérôme, with a catalogue raisonné. London, 1986, pp. 252–53, no. 317, ill., calls it "Cafe House, Cairo (Casting Bullets)," dates it about 1883, and lists Cook as the buyer at the Morgan sale.
Gerald M. Ackerman. Jean-Léon Gérôme: Monographie révisée, catalogue raisonné mis à jour. 2nd rev. ed. (1st ed., 1986). Paris, 2000, p. 308, no. 317.