Anyway, these paintings are magical in the exotic, sensual feel of the Orient. I love the majestic use of animals, the revelry, the respect in how he portrays the lions and tigers are beings of greatness, noble, strong. These paintings and others like it influenced European sentiment towards the Middle East, then more commonly referred to as the Orient, as travel was of course far slower and more restrictive. The Orient was dangerous in its difference, sexualized and foreign to Europeans. This is not necessarily a good thing, as Edward Said covers extensively in a brilliant little book appropriately titled Orientalism. You guys can tackle that one on your own (long but rewarding) but I just want to point out how much cultural representations of the Middle East has changed. While the Middle East is certainly portrayed as highly different in all manners of culture - dress, religion, city structure, food, sex, politics - in Gerome's paintings, and thus may still be implicitly threatening to the French, British, Portuguese and German citizens who viewed them, I still think there's an appreciation there. The East is not necessarily depicted as scary or intimidating. In fact, I'd argue that Gerome takes measures not to do so.
But whatever. The view of Cairo at the end is breathtaking. Travel list.