“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.
1856 Seated portrait from National Gallery, London
Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780 – 1867) 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.
Neoclassicism is the name of a Western movement in the arts, literature, theatre, music, and architecture that draw inspiration from the “classical” art and culture of classical antiquity. Neoclassicism was born at the time of the rediscovery of Pompeii and Herculaneum, but its popularity spread all over Europe as a generation of European art students finished their Grand Tour and returned from Italy to their home countries with newly rediscovered Greco-Roman ideals. The main Neoclassical movement coincided with the 18th-century Age of Enlightenment and continued into the early 19th century. In architecture, the style continued throughout the 19th, 20th and up to the 21st century.
- Which of the two portraits do you prefer?
- Does each portrait show a different perspective of Madame Moitessier’s life?
- Artist: Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres
- Born: 1780 – Montauban, Languedoc, France
- Died: 1867 (aged 86) – Paris, France
- Movement: Neoclassicism
Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres Quotes
Is there anyone among the great men who have not imitated? Nothing is made with nothing.
Make copies, young man, many copies. You can only become a good artist by copying the masters.
What do these so-called artists mean when they preach the discovery of the’new’?
Is there anything new? Everything has been done,
everything has been discovered.
You have to observe flowers in order to find the right tones for the folds of clothes.
It takes 25 years to learn to draw, one hour to learn to paint.
Explore the National Gallery of Art
- “Ginevra de’ Benci” by Leonardo da Vinci
- “A Young Girl Reading” by Jean-Honoré Fragonard
- “Small Cowper Madonna” by Raphael
- “The Alba Madonna” by Raphael
- “Nude on a Divan” by Amedeo Modigliani
- “Nude on a Blue Cushion” by Amedeo Modigliani
- “Saint Jerome” by El Greco
- “The Houses of Parliament, Sunset” by Claude Monet (National Gallery of Art, DC)
- “Breezing Up (A Fair Wind)” by Winslow Homer
- “Madame Moitessier” by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres
- Adrienne (Woman with Bangs) by Amedeo Modigliani
- “Watson and the Shark” by John Singleton Copley
- “The Emperor Napoleon in His Study at the Tuileries” by Jacques-Louis David
- “The Boating Party” by Mary Cassatt
- “Interior of the Pantheon, Rome” by Giovanni Paolo Panini
- Masterpieces of the National Gallery of Art
“The greatest deception men suffer is from their own opinions.”
– Leonardo da Vinci
Photo Credit 1) Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons