Self-portrait at the Age of 24
During the period that Ingres lived in a cell in the former convent of the Capuchins in Paris, along with the Tuscan sculptor, Lorenzo Bartolini, he painted this self-portrait that was to be a pendant to the portrait of his friend that he painted two years later. This gives idea of the deep friendship between the two artists who shared a fondness for playing the violin and for Flaxman’s Homeric illustrations. The painting, as we see it today, is the result of several changes that Ingres made over the course of the years that made it more representative, while the quality of the work is still outstanding.
Napoleon Bonaparte as First Consul
Napoleon hated long sittings for portraits, so he granted Ingres just one short meeting. For this reason the First Consul’s facial expressions seem stilted and the portrait focuses more on chromatic effects and the rendering of the setting. Napoleon commissioned the portrait for the city of Liege to commemorate the decree with which he granted the city a large sum of money to rebuild the suburb of Amercoeur that the Austrians had razed to the ground in 1794. From the window we can see the cathedral of Saint Lambert that was also destroyed. The painting reveals Ingres’ extraordinary ability in rendering the texture of the fabrics, the red velvet of the coat and the dark velvets of the furnishings.
Portrait of M. Philibert Rivière
Of all the Ingres’ portraits of the Rivière family, this one of Monsieur Rivière seems to best reflect the lessons of his teacher, David. The natural pose, that qualifies the subject’s social role and intellectual virtues, links it to works such as David’s portraits of the Monsieur and Madame Lavoisier and of Monsieur Sériziat. The chromatic contrasts and the special highlighting are characteristic of Ingres and at the time were a novelty that aroused more than a little criticism among his contemporaries. Among papers we can see a small engraving of Raphael’s Madonna of the Chair. Ingres spent a long time studying Raphael’s works and selected him as his main reference point.
This is a portrait of Caroline Rivière, the young daughter of M. and Mme Rivière, who died at the age of thirteen, shortly after Ingres completed the painting. Her beauty and virginal purity are exalted by the white dress and fur boa, a white that Ingres liked especially, but that the contemporary public did not comprehend because it spread too cold and bright a light throughout the painting. This was the same reason that the portrait of the mother, Madame Rivière was also considered too white and none of the innovations, such as the close-up view and the significant impasto of different fabrics and colors were not appreciated.
Napoleon on his Imperial Throne
Ordered for the seat of the legislature, this portrait reveals the same stilted and distracted expression of Napoleon Bonaparte as First Consul. Ingres had to be satisfied with the notions he obtained during the single sitting he had. And it is precisely for the lack of similarity with the real subject that the painting was harshly criticized to the extent that the director of the Louvre, Vivant Denon, had it removed from the Salon. Actually, Ingres had dedicated much time to the painting, “translating” the face into divine stateliness as if it were a mythological subject in which Napoleon is likened to an omnipotent Zeus. The painter had carefully studied both Medieval icons of the kings of France from which he had taken the historic attributes of the scepter and the “hand of justice” and the solutions of Flemish masters such as Holbein and Van Eyck.
The Valpinçon Bather
ngres won the Prix de Rome in 1801, but the scholarship at the Academy of France in Rome only became available in 1806. Among the paintings that he sent to Paris during this first, four year, Roman sojourn included the Bather of Bayonne (1807) and The Valpinçon Bather with which Ingres developed a new genre of the female nude. Going beyond the question of whether or not it is the same model, Thérèse or Mariuccia, the significant fact is that all these female paintings lead back to Raphael’s Fornarina which, for Ingres, obviously represented the archetype of feminine beauty, a timeless beauty that he could transpose from the historic setting to the private bath.
Zeus and Thetis
This was the last painting that Ingres sent from the French Academy in the Villa Medici. The Zeus and Thetis presents the same frontal stateliness of Napoleon on his Imperial Throne. Once again, the painting was not understood and became the subject of violent and harsh criticism, over details such as the exaggerated length of Thetis’ neck that was even attributed to a thyroid disorder! However, with an incomparable sense of color and line, the painting skillfully succeeds in combining various cultural references, from some statues of Zeus in the Vatican to Flaxman’s engraving of Thetis in the Iliad. On the base we can see a bas-relief modeled on an Hellenistic cameo in the Naples museum of which Ingres had a mold.
Ruggero and Angelica
Based on Orlando furioso by Ariosto, this painting was presented at the 1819 Salon and was purchased by king Louis XVIII for the throne room at Versailles. This painting aroused the same type of criticism received by the Zeus and Thetis, for its “reference” to the primitives, for the bizarre colors, and unusual and excessive whiteness and dissonant purple. This chromatic distortion that exalted the darkness impressed the young Delacroix who drew inspiration from it for his Barque of Dante – or Dante and Virgil in Hell - with which he earned the admiration of the sensitive Parisian public just two years later.
Odalisque with a Slave
Back in Rome at the Villa Medici in his capacity of director of the French Academy, Ingres returned to the theme of Odalisque for the second time. The first foray into the exotic world of the harem was in 1814 when he painted the Grande Odalisque that was shown at the 1819 Salon. Now the composition is enriched with details that connote the setting, including the Orientalism that was in fashion at the time. If the use of red and ochre is similar to Delacroix’s solutions, the references to the old traditions of a Titian or Veronese belong to Ingres’ by now mature talent.
There is another full-length portrait of Madame Ines Moitessier, née de Faucauld, dressed in black against a background of a plum-colored brocade wall. This second portrait was begun immediately after the first and many changes and second thoughts about the pose and color of the dress came into the final, extremely precise, version. The perfection of the contours is exalted by the variety of colors: the flesh tones of the face match the oval that is always a reference to Raphael, like the fresh pattern of the dress that brings a touch of cheer to the setting, while the mirror behind the subject enhances her Grecian profile that was highly fashionable at the time. Fifty years later Picasso drew on this painting as the inspiration for some of his monumental figures.
Although he began thinking about it in Florence in 1829 Ingres took years to complete this painting, in fact, he worked on it until the middle of the century. A variation of the Venus that he also worked on for a long time (1808-1848), The Source portrays a goddess of the waters, who lives in fountains and rivers, a naiad with a pure, harmonious body, typical of the classic iconography of the virtues and the personifications of the Olympians. It was this sense of chastity that inspired the poet Théodore de Banville to write the Naiad Argentine that was published in 1869. Exhibited in the artist’s studio, the canvas was acclaimed by the visitors who admired the its beauty of color and purity of form.
The Turkish Bath
This painting is a sort of summa of many female images that Ingres painted over a period of nearly sixty years. From the Valpinçon Bather, in the foreground playing the guitar, to the figure on the right with her hands behind her neck that picks up on a study of his first wife, Madeleine Chapelle (1815) to a reference to Angelica tied to the rock, to conclude with another nude, with her the face resting on a hand, inspired by his second wife, Delphine Ramel. Like an artistic testament, the women, inspiring muses, present themselves in a complete “review” that confirms how, beyond the various models, Ingres’ ideal of beauty was one and constant through the years: Raphael’s model of the Fornarina.
Ingres was born on 29 August 1780 at Montauban. The eldest of five children, he completed his apprenticeship in his father’s atelier. His father, Jean-Marie-Joseph was a decorative sculptor, painter and miniaturist. In 1791 he enrolled in the academy of Toulouse as a pupil of the painter Roques, enthusiastic admirer of Raphael and of the landscape artist Briant. In 1797 Ingres went to Paris and entered David’s atelier where he remained until 1806. In 1800 he won second place in the competition for the Prix de Rome with Scipio and Antioch; the following year he won the sojourn in Italy, but his departure was delayed until 1806. During the interval he painted portraits of Napoleon and of the Rivière family. In 1806 he exhibited his Portrait of Napoleon at the Salon and was criticized even by his teacher, David. In Rome, during October of the following year he began his studies of Raphael and Michelangelo. In 1808 he sent The Valpinçon Bather and Oedipus and the Sphinx to Paris. When his stay at the Villa Medici came to an end, he took a studio in Via Gregoriana. He painted portraits of some illustrious Frenchmen – and women who lived in Rome: Madame Panckoucke, Cordier, Bochet and the Chevalier de Narvins. In 1813 he married Madeleine Chapelle and the same year he painted The Betrothal of Raphael. During those years he dedicated himself to great historic themes (Raphael and the Fornarina, Paolo and Francesca) and many versions of La Grande Odalisque. In 1815 he did a large number of pencil portraits for people passing through Rome. In 1820 he moved to Florence and stayed with his friend, the sculptor Lorenzo Bartolini and that same year he received his first commission from the restoration government, the Vow of Louis XIII. In 1823 he was elected a corresponding member of the Académie des Beaux-Arts of Paris and returned there the following year. In 1825 Charles X gave him the cross of the Legion of Honor and he was elected a full member of the Académie des Beaux-Arts and then became a full professor in 1829. Other rewards came during the following years: the cross of officer of the Legion of Honor (1833) and the directorship of the Academy of France in Rome, a position that he maintained until 1841 when he returned to Paris. He received a triumphant welcome and even the king invited him to Versailles. He was given commissions for several portraits and for the stained glass windows in the chapel in Notre Dame de la Compassion in Paris. The year 1846 marked the first time that he participated in a public show at the Galerie des Beaux-Arts, and then the next year, along with Delacroix, he was a member of the committee for the fine arts from which he resigned in 1849, the year his wife died and he was stricken by an eye disease. In 1851 he decided to give a sizeable number of his paintings to the museum of Montauban that was opened the following year. In 1852 he married Delphine Ramel. In 1855, forty-three of his paintings were chosen for the Exposition Universelle of Paris. Between 1858 and 1860 he concentrated on self-portraits. An exhibition of his works was held at Montauban in 1862 and he became a senator. He died on 4 January 1867 and in February of the same year his home town decided to establish the Musée Ingres that was opened to the public in 1869.The works