The taste for reality and historical truth taken to the extreme is manifest in the astonishing sculptural group, The Gladiators. This first sculpture by the painter Gérôme, long believed to be lost, was used by the artist's son-in-law, Aimé Morot, himself a painter and sculptor, to pay tribute to Gérôme. Morot portrayed his father-in-law in the process of sculpting The Gladiators, and so included the original group in his own composition. The group was installed in the gardens of the Louvre as a memorial in 1909.
The portrait of Gérôme gives us a realistic picture of his working conditions: the smock, the tools he is holding, and his surprised glance at the spectator all suggest that he was interrupted in his work and caught in action as if by a snapshot. The gladiators themselves, a helmeted myrmillo and a retiary with his net, sculpted by Gérôme in 1878, are life-sized versions of the two gladiators he had painted six years before. Gérôme was famous for his Neo-Grec tastes and his Orientalism. A stickler for archaeological precision, he arranged for casts of antique gladiators' equipment to be sent from Naples and invested large sums in properties for his Parisian model.