Madame Moitessier, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, National Gallery of Art, DC
Madame Moitessier, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, The National Gallery, London
When asked to paint Madame Moitessier, Ingres — who was at a later point in his career in which he was less inclined to take on portrait commissions — initially refused. On meeting her, however, he was struck by her appearance and agreed.
He first started a seated portrait, shown above, bottom. Work on the portrait came to a halt on the death of Ingres’ wife. Seven years later, at the prompting of Madame Moitessier, Ingres began again with a fresh standing composition. A few years after that portrait was completed, he returned to the seated portrait and brought it to a finish.
The standing portrait, now in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, is the more striking of the two. The sitter’s expression is detached, her eyes unfocused, or even focused in different directions. I don’t know if this reflects Madame Moitessier’s actual appearance, but I suspect it does, given Ingres insistence of painting everything from life in order to achieve the faithfulness to nature with which he was deeply concerned.
The seated portrait, now in the National Gallery, London, was originally to include the sitter’s daughter, but she was left out of the final painting.