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Jean-Léon Gérôme, Portrait of Claude-Armand Gérôme, circa 1848. © The Fitzwilliam Musuem, Cambridge.

CAMBRIDGE.- To commemorate its bicentenary year in 2016, the Fitzwilliam Museum has acquired a newly discovered portrait by Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824-1904). Gérôme is one of the most important French painters of the 19th century, yet his work is only represented in six British public collections to date. 

The picture had remained in the artist’s collection until his death in 1904 and was thought lost, until its reappearance at auction in France in 2013. Recent cleaning has confirmed it as a masterpiece, and in unusually fine condition. 

The dramatic full-length 'swagger-portrait' is of ClaudeArmand Gérôme, (1827-50) the artist's younger brother, depicted as a student in his uniform from the Ecole Polytechnique in Paris. This was a very personal work of the artist, and from the early prime of his career. It is a virtuoso example of his skills as a portraitist, and was one of the works that consolidated Gérôme's reputation. 

Exhibited at the 1848 Salon in Paris, the portrait earned Gérôme a Second Class medal, helping to consolidate his standing as one of the foremost artists of his time. His brother, Claude-Armand would tragically die of meningitis two years later. This masterpiece has now taken its place in the Impressionist Gallery and is a major addition to the Fitzwilliam’s permanent collection. 

The Fitzwilliam's bicentenary year in 2016 saw the highest visitor figures on record for the museum, with 437,105 people enjoying the special exhibitions COLOUR and Death on the Nile and taking part in the programme of birthday events throughout the year. In August the Fitzwilliam revealed its successful bid to raise the £1.2 million needed to save an important pair of pietre dure Roman cabinets for the nation. No other pair of Roman hardstone cabinets exist in a public collection in the UK. 

The Friends of the Fitzwilliam have also announced their successful fundraising campaign to return Admiral Russell's Frame - a spectacular carved giltwood mirror frame, home to Cambridgeshire. 

The campaign launched last December, raised the £345,000 required for the historic frame to become part of the permanent collection. It was originally commissioned to hang in Chippenham Park Estate, Cambridgeshire, to commemorate the important naval victories of Admiral Edward Russell, Earl of Orford (1653-1727). 

During the bicentenary year the museum acquired a total of £2.5 million of successful birthday acquisitions for their permanent collection. 

The acquisition of the Portrait of Claude-Armand Gérôme was made possible through the generosity of The Art Fund and a number of other generous foundations and individuals. 

The foremost expert on Gérôme and Musée d’Orsay’s Senior Curator for Sculpture, Edouard Papet, will contextualise this significant 19th century artist and his intimate works in a special evening event at the Fitzwilliam on Friday 30th June 2017.