John Singer Sargent - El Jaleo, 1882

John Singer Sargent (Florence, 1856 - 1925, London)

El Jaleo, 1882

Oil on canvas, 232 x 348 cm (91 5/16 x 137 in.) canvas


Object details

Accession number



Purchased by the Schaus Gallery, New York from the Paris Salon of 1882 for 10,000 francs.
Purchased by T. Jefferson Coolidge (1831–1920), American businessman and diplomat, from the Schaus Gallery, 1882.
Gift from Coolidge to Isabella Stewart Gardner, 1914.


Signed and dated (upper right): John S. Sargent 1882


Gilbert Wendel Longstreet and Morris Carter. General Catalogue (Boston, 1935), p. 53.
Stuart Preston. "El Jaleo" in Alfred M. Frankfurter (ed.). The Gardner Collection (New York, 1946), p. 3.
Charles Merrill Mount. John Singer Sargent, a Biography (New York, 1955), pp. 132-34.
Ronald Hilton. Handbook of Hispanic Source Materials and Research Organizations in the United States (Stanford, California, 1956), p. 194.
Corinna Lindon Smith. Interesting People (Norman, Oklahoma, 1962), p. 168.
William N. Mason. “Notes, Records, Comments.” Gardner Museum Calendar of Events 6, no. 21 (20 Jan. 1963), p. 2
“Notes, Records, Comments.” Gardner Museum Calendar of Events 7, no. 39 (24 May 1964), p. 2. (excerpting Charles Merrill Mount, pp. 132-134)
Morris Carter. Reminiscences of Morris Carter: Did you know Mrs. Gardner? Morris Carter's Answer (Boston, 1964), pp. 52-53.
Richard Ormond. "Sargent's El Jaleo." Fenway Court (1970), pp. 2-18.
Philip Hendy. European and American Paintings in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston, 1974), pp. 219-21.
Mary Crawford Volk. John Singer Sargent’s El Jaleo. Exh. cat. (Boston: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum; Washington DC: National Gallery of Art, 1992), pp. 191-93, no. 50.
Anne Higonnet. "Private Museums, Public Leadership: Isabella Stewart Gardner and the Art of Cultural Authority." Cultural Leadership in America, Art Matronage and Patronage. Fenway Court, vol. 27 (Boston, 1997), pp. 79-92, no. 5.
Alan Chong et al. (eds.) Eye of the Beholder: Masterpieces from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, (Boston, 2003), pp. 150-51, 158-59.
Richard Ormond and Elaine Kilmurray. John Singer Sargent: Figures and Landscapes, 1874-1882. Complete Paintings Volume IV(New Haven and London, 2006), pp. 225-233, 265-77, cat. 772.
Alan Chong. "Mrs. Gardner's museum of myth." Res 52 (Autumn 2007), pp. 212-220, fig. 5.
Spanish Sojourns: Robert Henri and the Spirit of Spain. Exh. cat. (Savannah: Telfair Museum, 2013), p. 62.
Karen Corsano et al. John Singer Sargent and his Muse: Painting Love and Loss (New York, 2014), pp. 13-14, 23, pl. color 2.
Richard Ormond et al. Sargent: Portrait of Artists and Friends. Exh. cat. (London: National Portrait Gallery and New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2015), pp. 26, 29, 70-71, fig. 10.
Jacob Simon. "John Singer Sargent and the Framing of His Pictures" in Richard Ormond and Elaine Kilmurray (ed.). John Singer Sargent Figures and Landscapes, 1914-1925: Complete Paintings, Vol.IX (New Haven and London, 2016), pp.58-59, fig. 48. [as the frame possibly made by the gilder and framemaker Albert Hubert (active Paris, 1866-1892)]
Per Hedström (ed.) John Singer Sargent. Exh. cat. (Stockholm: Nationalmuseum, 2018), pp. 14-15, ill. p. 15.
Richard L. Kagan. The Spanish Craze: America's Fascination with the Hispanic World, 1779-1939 (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2019), pp. 157-158, 264, ill. pl. 3.

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Images like El Jaleo lean toward the daring, risky, unconventional, dramatic, erotically off-center, and odd. Because nomadic Gypsies were believed to ignore ethical principles and exalted superstition over orthodox religion, they endured oppression in numerous countries during the nineteenth century, but artists and bohemians idealized them as free spirits. Bizet’s opera Carmen, first performed in Paris in 1875, scandalized the public with its tale of a proud, lusty Andalusian Gypsy torn between an army officer and a toreador.

During his travels in Spain in 1879, Sargent was mulling over a major work of art in which he could express his love of Gypsy music, dance, and picturesque costumes. On his return to Paris he set to work on a wide horizontal picture whose proportions simulated the shallow stage space of popular musical establishments. He named the painting El Jaleo to suggest the name of a dance, the jaleo de jerez, while counting on the broader meaning jaleo, which means ruckus or hubbub. The painting was exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1882 with the more explicit title El Jaleo: Danse des gitanes (Dance of the Gypsies).

The best evidence of his own excited reactions to live dance performances can be found in the pencil sketches of a Spanish woman that he included in an album assembled for Isabella Stewart Gardner. They are among his fastest, most intuitive works. In one drawing a torrent of fast hard lines suggests the twisting shawl from which a majestic neck and outstretched vamping arms emerge.

Source: Trevor Fairbrother, "El Jaleo," in Eye of the Beholder, edited by Alan Chong et al. (Boston:ISGM and Beacon Press, 2003): 159.