In 1814 Ingres, not yet a major artist in France traveled to Naples, Italy to paint a series of pictures for Queen Caroline Murat and her family. Among the paintings was the Grande Odalisque I showed you the other night. Caroline, a young sister of Napoleon lost her kingdom in 1815 and Ingres was not paid for his work. Nearly destitute in Naples and far from home he began taking portrait commissions from visitors and tourists on the grand tour. Many of his sitters were English. Some of the portraits I have posted here are from that era.
Here is a portrait of his wife, Madeleine Chapelle. He married her sight unseen after a lengthy correspondence. They had a long and loving marriage. These portraits are much admired by draftsmen and are perhaps the best of their sort. They are really the reason he is revered as one of the greatest draftsmen in history. Degas and many other artist held him in great esteem because of them. I copied several as a student and once copying Ingres drawings was a common exercise for training young painters.
Despite his being a classicist, these drawings do seem to be warm and personal. I often look at them and think how much they look like actual people I might know. Some portraits of this era are remote and somewhat too formal to carry to the viewer an idea of what the sitter might have been like. Perhaps because they were informal and relatively quick creations these drawings lack that fault. I am sure Ingres thought of them as busy work done for money, but they are very fine and our contemporary liking or less formal art has only made them more attractive, when some of his history painting seems aloof and removed from our everyday experience.
I will return tomorrow and break down one of these drawings and see what makes it work.