This head and shoulders portrait is based upon a three-quarter length portrait of the Duc d’Orléans (1810–1842), the eldest son of King Louis Philippe and heir to the French throne, which Ingres completed in 1842. Following the Duke’s death in a carriage accident in July the same year, Ingres was instructed to make copies of the portrait. These ranged from modified versions of the complete picture to paintings of the head only. Numerous copies were made, although probably only five are by Ingres himself. The rest are by his studio or by other artists.
This painting is signed by Ingres, which suggests some of it was painted by him. It is not an exact copy: in this version the Duke wears a cloak, which covers the gold epaulettes and military decorations on display in the original painting. The cloak, together with the Duke’s unusually pale complexion, gives him a dashing, romantic appearance.
In 1842 Ingres completed a three-quarter-length portrait of the Duc d’Orléans (1810–1842), the heir to the French throne. The Duke had personally asked Ingres to paint the portrait as he admired Ingres’s work and had commissioned him in 1834 to paint Antiochus and Stratonice (Musée Condé, Chantilly) and in 1839 had bought Oedipus and the Sphinx (Louvre, Paris), a later version of which is also in the National Gallery. The portrait met with immediate success when exhibited. It shows the elegant Duke in a regal pose with his bicorne hat placed in the crook of his right arm. He wears his lieutenant general’s uniform, complete with sword and military decorations, including his Legion of Honour. The setting is, however, a civilian one: he stands in his salon at the Palais des Tuileries, whose furnishings are filled with royal symbolism. The painting is still owned by the Orléans family.
Just three months after the portrait was finished, the Duke was killed in a carriage accident. As a hugely popular celebrity, his untimely death led to widespread public grief. Ingres himself wrote to a friend stating, ‘I cry continuously and remain inconsolable’; he even made preliminary sketches for an allegory of the death of the prince. King Louis Philippe, instructed Ingres to make a copy of the portrait for the memorial chapel to be built in the Duke’s honour. The painting is now at Versailles. A second copy (also at Versailles) was requested by the Minister of the Interior. Produced under Ingres’s supervision, it was intended to be the model for future copies. This version replaced the original palace interior with a landscape setting. In addition to engravings, around 20 painted versions of the portrait have been identified. These range from full portraits to busts only and were priced accordingly. According to Ingres’s account book, he only painted five copies himself. In order to meet demand, copies were also made by students from his studio or by other artists.
Despite suggestions that this painting of the Duke’s head – with its distinctive oval shape and high neck – and shoulders may be a preparatory study for the 1842 portrait, it is almost certainly a later copy. The lack of detailed finish and the unusually pale, even ghostly, complexion are unlike the original portrait. Nor is it an exact copy: the Duke is wrapped in a cloak, which covers the gold epaulettes and military decorations on display in the original. However, adding the cloak does give greater focus to the face and also creates a more dashing, even romantic, image of the dead prince. Although it is unclear to what extent Ingres himself worked on it, his signature and the fact the portrait is a variation of the original, rather than just a copy, would suggest he had some involvement with it.
Within six years of the Duke’s death, his father King Louis Philippe fell from power following the collapse of the July Monarchy and the proclamation in February 1848 of the Second Republic.
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