INGRES, Jean-Auguste-Dominique
(b. 1780, Montauban, d. 1867, Paris)

The Apotheosis of Homer

Oil on canvas, 386 x 512 cm
Musée du Louvre, Paris

Ingres attempted in 1827 a historical synopsis in his great composition, the Apotheosis of Homer. This canvas was originally a ceiling decoration in the Salle Clarac in the Louvre.

The most famous artists in history are depicted here: Dante and Molière and painters such as Poussin, but Homer reigns above them all. This assembly of great artists and writers of all ages gathered to honour the ancient Greek poet before a classical temple might look the epitome of hierarchical academicism. The painting was intended as the sum of all aesthetic rules. However, it could hardly live up to the expectations. Today it seems stiff and unnatural.

The painting's formal composition and pale, sugary colours appear at the opposite extreme to Delacroix's Sardanapalus, shown in the same Salon. Delacroix's picture seems far away from academic orthodoxy, while Ingres's Homer looks like its ultimate endorsement.