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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 jewelry and with flowers in her hair that accentuates her hair styling.

After this portrait, Ingres then returned to his original composition of the seated painting, 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.

Dominique Ingres - Mme Moitessier

1856 Seated portrait from National Gallery, London

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres

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 draws inspiration from the “classical” art and culture of classical antiquity.

Neoclassicism was born at the time of the rediscovery of Pompeii and Herculaneum.

Still, 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.

Madame Moitessier

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres

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.”


A Tour of the National Gallery of Art


“Is there anyone among the great men who have not imitated? Nothing is made with nothing.”
– Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres


Photo Credit 1) Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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