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

Princess de Broglie

Oil on canvas, 121 x 91 cm
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Ingres was Jacques-Louis David's most celebrated pupil. His severe classical style and his meticulous working procedure epitomized the academic tradition, which he defended vehemently against the French Romantic movement, led by Eugène Delacroix. As a young man, he supported himself almost exclusively with commissioned portraits, but later in his life he hoped to renounce them for "grander things." Nevertheless, the last series of aristocratic portraits he made, between 1845 and 1853, were among the greatest achievements of his maturity.

The princesse de Broglie (1825-1860) was a great beauty and a highly respected woman, the embodiment of the best of the Second Empire aristocracy. Ingres began her portrait in 1851; after accepting the commission he wrote to a friend that it would be his last except for that of his wife. The painting completes his series of aristocratic portraits and is a supreme example of the mastery of technique, the bold use of colour, and the understanding of female character for which Ingres is so justly celebrated.