Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (French, Montauban 1780 - 1867 Paris)
Portrait of Madame Thiers, 1834
Signed and dated lower right1
12 9/16 x 9 7/16 in. (31.9 x 23.9 cm)
R. T. Miller, Jr. Fund, 1948
This elegant portrait represents the fifteen-year-old bride of Louis-Adolphe Thiers (1797-1877), the recently appointed Minister of the Interior in the Louis-Philippe government (1834-48). Stylistically, the drawing is similar to hundreds of pencil portraits by Ingres, which combine a precisely drawn likeness of the sitter's face and head with a swift yet accurate sketch of his or her body, posture, and clothes, creating an astute observation of class, character, and personality.
The Oberlin drawing of Madame Thiers was done in Paris in July 1834 around the time of Ingres's appointment as Director of the Académie de France in Rome. Wounded by the public scorn directed towards his painting The Martyrdom of Saint Symphorian (1834; Autun Cathedral) during its recent exhibition at the Salon, the embittered Ingres sought a retreat from Paris. When Adolphe Thiers, the Minister of the Interior, announced a search for a replacement for Horace Vernet as Director of the Rome Académie, Ingres immediately joined the group of seven artists seeking the post. On 31 May the Académie des Beaux Arts submitted its list of candidates to the government, with highest recommendations for Ingres, who was subsequently appointed to the post by Thiers on 5 July. Far from representing any warmth or friendship between Thiers and Ingres, this portrait was undoubtedly presented to the powerful minister in order to help insure, or to render obligatory thanks for, the coveted Italian appointment.2
The young bride is Elise Dosne (1818-1880), daughter of Alexis Alexandre Dosne, a rich financier from Lyon, and his wife Euridicie, who was assumed by contemporaries to have been Thiers's mistress.3 The union between Elise and the much older and much less attractive Adolphe was no marriage of love; it appears to have been arranged to seal a contractual relationship between Thiers and the Dosnes. Contemporary documents describe Elise as silent, sullen, and indifferent, although somewhat elegant during the bloom of her youth. The blank look emanating from the large, pale, and widely-set eyes in Ingres's drawing does nothing to disprove these reports. The drawing probably records a day spent in each other's company,4 but a day lacking the friendly relationship revealed in many other Ingres pencil portraits, such as the Portrait of Isaure Leblanc of the same year.5
The face is meticulously drawn with short tiny strokes from a sharpened pencil; more freely sketched with a blunter point is the sitter's diminutive body, nearly overwhelmed by her fashionable bodice with wide lace-trimmed collar and voluminous sleeves. Several other young women Ingres drew that year, including Isaure Leblanc, are similarly attired.
J. S. Wilker
Ingres was born on 29 August 1780 in Montaubon. He learned to draw primarily by copying his artist father's collection of prints reproducing old master paintings. He studied at the Toulouse academy and then entered the Paris studio of Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825) in 1797, where he worked for five years. Here Ingres formed his unique style based on a fusion of descriptive realism, linear purity, and idealized beauty.
Ingres painted many major history paintings with neoclassical and religious subjects, was the foremost defender of the French classical tradition throughout his long artistic career, and trained innumerable French artists (the ingristes) in Paris and in Rome.
While his history paintings were most highly valued by the French academy and by the artist himself, his portraiture alone would have assured him renown as an artist. His two portraits of Napoleon Bonaparte (1804; Liège, Musée des Beaux Arts and 1806; Paris, Musée de l'Armée), the several portraits of the Duc d'Orléans (first in 1841), and the portrait of the Countess d'Haussonville (1845; New York, The Frick Collection), for example, are closely observed, immaculately painted masterpieces, each richly revealing the sitter and his or her milieu. His most evocative portrait of the July Monarchy (1830-48) period is Monsieur Bertin(1832, Musée du Louvre), director of the government organ Le Journal des débats.
A skilled draftsman, Ingres also drew around five hundred portraits in pencil, beginning with profile medallions, done in the style of the engraved portraits of Charles-Nicolas Cochin (1715-1790) , and the first full-length portrait of his father in 1792. During his study with David and subsequently in Rome, he drew several portraits of his artist and architect friends. In 1815, after the withdrawal of French troops from Italy, and consequently financial support for the artist, he supported himself by drawing portraits of English tourists and Restoration officials. The drawn portraits continued to be an important aspect of his work throughout his career, although he did them for friendship and/or favor (as in the Oberlin drawing), never again for actual cash. Around fifty of his portrait drawings, done between 1798 and 1858, were first exhibited in the Salon des Arts-Unis, Paris, in 1861.
Ingres died in Paris on 14 January 1867.
Selected General References
Lapauze, Henry. Ingres, sa vie & son oeuvre. Paris, 1911.
Rosenblum, Robert. Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres. New York, 1967.
Naef, Hans. "Ingres déssinateur de portraits." In Ingres. Exh. cat., Musée du Petit Palais, Réunion des Musées Nationaux, 1967-68, pp. ix - xxiii.
Naef, Hans. Die Bildniszeichnungen von J.A.-D. Ingres. 5 vols. Bern, 1977-80.
Mongan, Agnes. "J.-A.-D. Ingres, Portraitist." In Ingres: In Pursuit of Perfection: The Art of J.-A.-D. Ingres. Exh. cat., The J. B. Speed Art Museum, Louisville, Ky., 1983-84, pp. 138-49.
Collection Adolphe Thiers (to whom the drawing is dedicated), Paris (until his death in 1877)
Collection Madame Thiers (widow and sitter, née Elise Dosne), Paris (until her death in 1880)
Collection Félicie Dosne (sister of sitter), Paris (until her death in 1906)
Sale J. A. Heseltine, Fontainebleau (Hôtel des Ventes de Fontainebleau), 23 April 1933, lot 80, ill.
Collection Robert Langton Douglas (1864-1951), London and New York6
With Paul Rosenberg & Co., New York (1942)
Collection Justin K. Thannhauser (1946)
With M. Knoedler & Company, Inc., New York, from whom purchased in 1948
San Francisco, California Palace of the Legion of Honor, 1947. 19th Century French Drawings. 8 March - 6 April. Cat. no. 14.
New York, M. Knoedler & Company, Inc., 1954. Paintings and Drawings from Five Centuries: Collection Allen Memorial Art Museum. 3 - 21 February. Cat. no. 55.
Ann Arbor, The University of Michigan Museum of Art, 1956. Drawings and Watercolors from the Oberlin Collection. 11 March - 1 April. No cat.
New York, Paul Rosenberg and Co., 1961. Ingres in American Collections (for the Benefit of the Lighthouse, New York Association for the Blind). 7 April - 6 May. Cat. no. 44.
The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 1966. Treasures from the Allen Memorial Art Museum. 21 July - 11 September. No cat.
Oberlin, Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College, 1967. Ingres and his Circle. 3 - 24 March. Cat. no. 3.
Paris, Musée du Petit Palais, 1967-68. Ingres. 27 October - 29 January. Cat. no. 170.
College Park, University of Maryland, 1968. Homage à Baudelaire. 6 - 31 March. Cat. p. 33.
Louisville, Ky., The J. B. Speed Art Museum, 1983-84. Ingres: In Pursuit of Perfection: The Art of J.-A.-D. Ingres. 6 December - 29 January (also shown at Fort Worth, The Kimbell Art Museum). Cat. no. 74.
Hamilton, Chloe. "Catalogue of R. T. Miller, Jr. Fund Acquisitions." Allen Memorial Art Museum Bulletin 16, no. 2 (Winter 1959), cat. no. 57; no. 3 (Spring 1959), ill. p. 257.
Naef, Hans. "Madame Thiers and her Portrait by Ingres." Allen Memorial Art Museum Bulletin 23, no. 2 (Winter 1966), pp. 73-89.
Mongan, Agnes. "Ingres and his Friends." Allen Memorial Art Museum Bulletin 24, no. 3 (Spring 1967), pp. 149, 154-55, cat. no. 3, ill.
Angrand, Pierre. Monsieur Ingres et son époque. Paris and Lausanne, 1967, p. 93 n. 3.
Delpierre, Madeleine. "Ingres et la mode de son temps (d'après ses portraits dessinés)." Bulletin du Musée Ingres (Montauban) 37 (July 1975), pp. 23, 24.
Stechow, Wolfgang. Catalogue of Drawings and Watercolors in the Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College. Oberlin, 1976, p. 39, fig. 126.
Sutton, Denys. "Robert Langton Douglas: Part IV (New York)." Apollo 110, no. 209 (July 1979), p. 35, ill. p. 41, fig. 11.
Naef, Hans. Die Bildniszeichnungen von J.-A.-D. Ingres. Vol. 3. Bern, 1979, pp. 192-202 (trans. into German of Naef's article in AMAM Bulletin, 1966, cited above). Vol. 5. Bern, 1980, pp. 178-80, no. 344.
Condon, Patricia, Marjorie B. Cohn, and Agnes Mongan. Ingres: In Pursuit of Perfection: The Art of J.-A.-D. Ingres. Exh. cat., The J. B. Speed Art Museum, Louisville, Ky., 1983-84, pp. 147-48, cat. no. 74.
Lesage, Caroline. "La Fondation Dosne-Thiers." Beaux Arts Magazine (1995), p. 11, ill.
The Oberlin portrait was drawn in graphite pencil on medium-weight wove paper with a partial J. Whatman, Turkey Mill watermark at the top of the sheet. The sheet is in good, stable condition with a few slight blemishes and patches of soiling and a single fox mark on the sitter's neck. The paper was bleached during treatment in 1977.
1. Signed and dated lower right: offert à Monsieur / Thiers Ministre de / l'intérieur - Ingres Del. / 1834.
2. Hans Naef investigated the friendship, or lack of it, between the minister and the artist in "Madame Thiers and her Portrait by Ingres," Allen Memorial Art Museum Bulletin 23, no. 2 (Winter 1966), pp. 73-81. Pierre Angrand writes that Ingres gave the drawing to Thiers to thank him for the appointment, but offers no supporting evidence for this opinion (Pierre Angrand, Monsieur Ingres et son époque [Paris, 1967], p. 93 n. 3).
3. Naef uses several memoirs to paint a Balzacian picture of the Dosne household, which included the ambitious Madame Euridicie, who retained lifelong influence over Thiers, her tolerant husband, and the two daughters, Elise and Felicie; see Hans Naef, "Madame Thiers and her Portrait by Ingres," Allen Memorial Art Museum Bulletin 23, no. 2 (Winter 1966), pp. 81-88.
4. Naef notes that the portrait drawings generally took Ingres a day to complete, an hour and a half in the morning, and two and a half hours in the afternoon, with lunch providing an opportunity for informal observation; see Hans Naef, "Ingres dessinateur de portraits," in Ingres (exh. cat., Musée du Petit Palais, Réunion des Musées Nationaux, 1967-68), p. xxi.
5. Graphite pencil, 31.6 x 23.4 cm, Bayonne, Musée Bonnat; Hans Naef, Die Bildniszeichnungen von J.-A.-D. Ingres, vol. 5 (Bern, 1980), cat. no. 359.
6. According to Knoedler & Company, after the Heseltine sale, the drawing belonged to Stanislas de Castellane; then André Weil, Paris; then Vitale Bloch, before it went to Langton Douglas (from a letter from Helmut Ripperger, librarian at Knoedler & Company, to Hans Naef, 23 December 1965). According to other information in the museum files, the drawing belonged to Mme. Zak, Paris, before it went to Langton Douglas in 1938; he gave it to his wife Jean in 1942 (from an undated document, signed W. Stechow, in the museum files, and a letter dated 15 October 1965, from Athena Tacha to Hans Naef). According to Denys Sutton ("Robert Langton Douglas: Part IV [New York]," Apollo 110, no. 209 [July 1979], p. 35-36), the drawing was among a handful of works of art brought for safekeeping by Jean Douglas from London to New York in the summer of 1940. According to Paul Rosenberg and Co., the drawing was sold by them to Vladimir Golschmann in 1946.