Tuesday, March 15, 2011

More Ingres management

Here is our old friend the Vicomtesse d'Hausonville. I ran into some of the studies Ingres did for the painting and those are shown below.

Ingres made a number of changes after this drawing, he altered the angle of the head and he has removed the sleeves from her gown. He must have used an entirely different costume in the finished painting. He also reworked the hand that she holds to her chin. The hand in the painting looks a little less natural, but design wise seems to be an improvement over the drawing. The head and the hand flow in the same direction and there is a design dialogue between the two that the drawing doesn't have. Sometimes the natural is not as good as the invented and I think this is a case of that. The remarkableness of her appearance depends partially on that odd hand beneath her chin. In the drawing it is perhaps more natural looking but it is a little ordinary.The hand in the drawing appears square and the hand in the painting is graceful. I wonder if he didn't make up the hand for the painting.

Here is a preliminary drawing for the head. He has turned the head into the position it will have in the painting but the features look more coarse. In the painting he seems to have reduced their size and again the painting is lees naturalistic but it has gained an other worldly rather startling perfected look. The "open" areas (where the features are not) are enlarged. The naturalism of the drawing is more accurate and convincing. But the slight unrealism and oddness of the painting is startling and just enough out of our ordinary expectations of the appearances of things to be curious and interesting.

The slightly bizarre "look" he achieved might not be your cup of tea, although I like it myself. But it is eye catching and more interesting than a more natural look which the drawings show him perfectly able to do. He has deliberately made the thing a little alien. It has a style, and Ingres lived in stylish times.

images from artrenewal.org


Philip Koch said...

Fascinating comments on the unnaturalness issue.

Oh I'm loving these Ingres posts.

JonInFrance said...

"La Vicomtesse d'Hausonville" - thats quite a snazzy monniker - only her memory lingers on, thanks to Ingres

Libby Fife said...

These posts have been really instructive. I have been drawn to paintings before but haven't been able to put my finger on why. (Pun intended.) In this one, her arms and hand and head are all so smooth and fleshy but in a creepy, fascinating sort of way. Your breakdown of some of those points offers some explanations, I think. Thanks again.

Karla said...

All that softening really does make a beautiful painting. Is it just me, or is the reflection in the mirror also created? I can't figure out how the hand could be in the reflection at that angle.

Lucy said...

I think you just answered my question about ingres' hands that I asked the other day. They always seemed rubbery and odd to me in almost every painting (In a fascinating way) Of course he designed it that way!! The studies you posted yesterday show Ingres' flawless draughtsmanship.

This is another eye opening series!

Plein Air Gal said...

All that you say is "spot on", of course, but can you also offer some insight on what I can't help but see as the biggest and most effective design change of all? In the drawing, the mirror is only behind the subject's left shoulder/side and her reflection is cut off at the edge. In the painting, he has extended the mirror out along the wall behind her, and repositioned her (although still keeping her at center!) so that her reflection does not kiss the edge of the frame. Were that change not made, wouldn't the painting seem very heavy to the viewer's right and also not as spacious and airy? I'd love to hear your insights on this!

Craig Daniels said...

It actually looks like the right arm does not attach properly, or is that just me?

James Gunter said...

This has been a fascinating series of posts about Ingres' drawings, and his painting of the Vicomtesse d'Hausonville. Maybe it's just me, but I have never been bothered so much by Ingres' style of painting. To me, it seems to be more about attitude, or psyche (real or not) than about matter-of-fact physical appearance. I think his artwork is beautiful.

I do tend to enjoy Ingres' portraits more than his mythological or history paintings. In spite of their idealization, the portraits still value the uniqueness of the individual.

As for the arm of the Vicomtesse d'Hausonville seeming a little out of place, Sandro Botticelli (1445 – 1510) was another painter who moved arms and legs around in his paintings to his heart's content. The effect might be more successful in some cases than in others.

Stapleton Kearns said...


Stapleton Kearns said...

That is true of so many of the subjects of great portraits. The most important thing they did in their entire lives was pose for an artist.

Stapleton Kearns said...

You are welcome.

Stapleton Kearns said...

The mirror image is created I believe and is unsettling.

Stapleton Kearns said...

They are deliberately odd, but he mixes in hyperrealism to carry the whole thing off.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Plein air gal
I think you summed it up pretty well.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I agree, but look at the ovoid shape it makes out of the torso. I think that was his intent.

Stapleton Kearns said...

The whole painting is distorted and curious.

janice skivington said...

I saw this painting last year at the Frick Museum in New York. In fact I stood by it looking for so long that a guard told me not to stand so close. I made the guards more nervous when I took out my sketchbook and made a study of this painting. This is a portrait that I could look at for hours, there are so many details and design ideas installed as you say so well. Also, I wondered if their wasn't a "relationship" of "some kind" between Ingres and the Countess. She is quite flirtatious, in this pose.
the other portrait that i could not look at long enough, and make the guards more unhappy, was the one of Sir Thomas Moore by Hans Holbein. I wonder if you will get to that in your VERY instructive guide to art history. And Thanks for all you do.

jim said...

Glad you included the comtesse in your hit parade. This painting has always been one of my favorites. The most striking "distortion" I notice, is how perfectly proportioned she looks, yet if she were to turn and face you, put her hands by her side, her right arm would be longer than a chimpanzee's. Yet it comes off as a barely noticeable detail.