While two mercenaries cast bullets and a third, seated behind them, seems to be inspecting one, others engage in revelry and a man and woman converse. Despite these apparent incongruities, the meticulous painting technique renders the scene convincing. Gérôme traveled to Egypt many times from 1855 onward. His recollections of these journeys, together with objects that he brought back to Paris, became ingredients for scenes which today might be regarded as historical fictions. The title of this work derives from the stock book of Gérôme’s dealer, who bought the painting from the artist in 1884, presumably soon after he finished it.
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[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.
"J. L. Gérôme in American Collections." The Collector 1 (September 1, 1890), p. 150, as "Coffee House, Cairo" in the Cook collection.
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.
Katharine Baetjer. European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art by Artists Born Before 1865: A Summary Catalogue. New York, 1995, p. 436, ill.
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.
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