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“Madame Moitessier” by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.)

Moitessier (Ingres, 1851) NGA

“Madame Moitessier” by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres

“Madame Moitessier” by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres is a portrait of Marie-Clotilde-Inès Moitessier (née de Foucauld) completed in 1851 which depicts the subject standing in a black dress looking directly at the viewer. Madame Moitessier (1821–1897) was the daughter of a French civil servant who married a wealthy banker and merchant, who was a widower twice her age.

Ingres was initially reluctant at the peak of his career to accept portrait commissions and refused her husband’s request for a portrait. However, when Ingres met Madame Moitessier, he was struck by her beauty and agreed to produce a portrait. The first portrait of Madame Moitessier that Ingres started shows the subject sitting in a gay floral dress, but it took twelve years to complete due to many interruptions in the artist’s and subject’s lives. Work on the canvas was suspended when the death of Ingres’ wife left him unable to work for many months, and then Madame Moitessier was unavailable due to pregnancy and the death of her father. Seven years later Ingres began his portrait of Madame Moitessierafresh, painting this portrait of the subject showing her standing in a dark dress, wearing abundant jewellery and with flowers in her hair that accentuates her hair styling. After this portrait, Ingres then returned to his original composition of the seated portrait, which he completed in 1856 and can be seen at the National Gallery of London. This standing portrait shows a very sober picture compared to the seated portrait which shows her with more of a smile.

Ingres was a French Neoclassical painter who thought of himself as a painter of history and who today is highly regarded for his many portraits. Critics often found his style bizarre and archaic, his expressive distortions of form and space make him an important precursor of modern art,  and his work influenced Picasso and Matisse and other modernists.



Madame Moitessier

    • Title:              Madame Moitessier
    • Artist:            Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres
    • Created:        1851
    • Media:           Oil on canvas
    • Dimensions:  H: 148 cm (58.2 in); W: 101.6 cm (40 in)
    • Museum:      National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres