Important Ingres Portrait on loan from the Frick at the Norton Simon Museum


As part of an art exchange program between the Frick Collection in New York and the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, French artist Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres’ stunning portrait, Comtesse d’Haussonville, 1845, is being shown for the first time in California.  The temporary exhibition includes two related preparatory drawings and is on view through January 25, 2010, making it a perfect art destination to visit over the holidays.

Fashion is a key element of Ingres’ many high society portraits since it provides visual cues to the subject’s creative expression and social standing. In her book, Ingres in Fashion: Representations of Dress and Appearance, Aileen Ribeiro points out the carefully selected elements of the Comtesse d’Haussonville’s toilette and how they relate to the fashions of the day:

The fashion magazines…noted the popularity of turquoise for jewellery; the Petit Courier des dames (1840) referred to the vogue for bracelets in the shape of snakes with eyes made of turquoise.  The comtesse d’Haussonville wears a heavy gold bracelet set with a turquoise, and among other rings on her right hand is a turquoise serpent ring, also known as à la Cléopâtre.  Given the artistocratic restraint of the portrait, such a choice would be appropriate; it is jewellery which is rich but discreet.

The Comtesse d’Haussonville is depicted in her boudoir, perhaps after returning from an evening at the theatre, in a beautifully draped Delft-blue silk evening gown,turquoise jewelry, and a red ribbon and tortoiseshell comb adorning her chignon, all artfully reflected in the mirror.   She leans against a mantel, one arm crossing her stomach and the other arm supporting her chin. She gazes directly at the viewer with a contemplative and noble air.  Ingres’ portraits thicken the air of a room because they are so rich in color and line yet the figures are almost abstract and otherworldly.

The Comtesse d’Haussonville was the offspring of literary, political, and grand nobility and she was an accomplished writer, musician and watercolorist in her own right. Ingres’ portrait of the Comtesse d’Haussonville is one of his masterpieces and a fascinating study of the use of historical fashion in portraiture.

– Emily Waldorf

30 Responses to “Important Ingres Portrait on loan from the Frick at the Norton Simon Museum”

  1. great post.

    i just wrote a brief post myself about ingres and the show gaze. sadly, comtesse is no longer there. it really was beautiful to see.

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