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Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, 'Madame Moitessier', 1856

Key facts
Full title Madame Moitessier
Artist Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres
Artist dates 1780 - 1867
Date made 1856
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 120 × 92.1 cm
Inscription summary Signed; Dated and inscribed
Acquisition credit Bought, 1936
Inventory number NG4821
Location Room 45
Collection Main Collection
Madame Moitessier
Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres

Wearing her finest clothes and jewellery, Madame Moitessier gazes majestically at us. She is the embodiment of luxury and style during the Second Empire, which saw the restoration of the French imperial throne and the extravagant display of wealth. Her distinctive pose is based upon a Roman wall painting from Herculaneum depicting the goddess of Arcadia.

The portrait was commissioned in 1844 to celebrate the marriage two years earlier of Marie Clotilde-Inès de Foucauld to the wealthy merchant, Sigisbert Moitessier. Ingres was initially reluctant to accept the commission, but changed his mind after meeting the 23-year-old Madame Moitessier, whom he described as ‘beautiful and good’. Nonetheless, it took him 12 years to complete the painting. During this time, the picture underwent several major revisions: a young daughter, Catherine, was originally to be included but was removed from the composition, and a different dress was chosen to reflect the change in fashion.

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