Monday, October 13, 2008

Ingres: Queen Caroline Murat

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres was one of the leading French neoclassical painters of the 1800s, although he is remembered for his portraits of contemporaries more than for his classical and historical paintings. There is a warmth and humanity to the portraits, particularly in the eyes, that makes them seem more real than a photograph.

In 1814, Ingres traveled to Naples where he did a number of paintings, including this one of the Queen Caroline Murat, the younger sister of Napoleon I. The Murat's ordered three other paintings, but would be deposed in 1815, and Ingres was stranded in Rome without pay.

I like the brooding Romantic quality to this painting that I detect in spite of her placid expression. The dramatic black dress seems to grow from the floor and her shape, with the elaborate head wear, repeats the shape of the volcano in the background. The effect is of a photo negative of the volcano.


Holly said...

Although I'm not a huge fan of portraiture, I've always thought Ingres had something special going on. In some ways its echoed by John Singer Sargent later on, a kind of mood intensity, generally spelled out in textiles.

Have to wonder, with this one, if the obvious visual pairing with the volcano is something about personality, inner fire or some such? Likely it's something much, much more subtle than that, possibly lost in the wilderness of time.

Rufus said...

It could well be that- 1814 is the heyday of that sort of thing. His portrait of Chateaubriand is pretty much brooding Romantic intensity in a concentrated form.