Signed "Ing" lower right
14 3/16'' x 5 1/2" (36 x 13.9 cm) - Framed 21 1/4" x 11 13/16" (54 x 30 cm)
This beautiful drawing, of great technical virtuosity, is one of the many studies made by Ingres for Astraea, one of the key characters in the Golden Age fresco he painted between 1843 and 1847 at the Château de Dampierre (Yvelines). It is also one of the few studies still in private hands, as most of them are part of the Musée Ingres-Bourdelle collection (in Montauban).
1. Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres
After an initial apprenticeship in his home town of Montauban, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres became a pupil of Jacques-Louis David in Paris. He was awarded the Prix de Rome in 1801, but was unable to go there until 1806. In Rome, where he remained until 1820, he discovered Raphael's paintings, which will have a decisive influence on his style, and developed a taste for antiquity. It was also there that in 1813 he married Madeleine Chapelle (1782-1849), a young milliner from Guéret. In 1820, he left Rome for Florence, where he lived until 1824.
After a laborious start, Ingres finally met success in France with his Vœu de Louis XIII (Vow of Louis XIII) when it was exhibited at the Salon of 1824. This success led him to go back to France before being appointed director of the Académie de France in Rome, which prompted him to return to Rome from 1835 to 1842.
In 1839, the Duke of Luynes, owner of the Dampierre estate, ordered two colossal allegorical panels (4.8 x 6.6 meters) from him. The themes chosen by Ingres (the Golden Age and the Iron Age) reflect his taste for Greek and Roman antiquity. But it was only after his return from Rome in August 1843 that Ingres moved to Dampierre where he lived during the summer months for several years, working on this commission inspired by the Raphael Rooms in the Vatican.
He left Dampierre in November 1847 after having almost completed The Golden Age fresco and sketched out The Iron Age one (photo in the gallery). The 1848 Revolution and the general upheaval that ensued did not allow him to return to Dampierre during that year, in full agreement with his patron. He intended to resume his work in the summer of 1849, but on the 27th July his wife Madeleine died, leaving Ingres deeply distraught.
Ingres never resumed work at Dampierre and on March 7th 1850 he signed a transaction with the Duke, abandoning the two frescoes as they stood without any compensation other than the 20,000 francs he had already received. In 1862, however, Ingres made a reduced-size copy of The Golden Age (46.4 x 61.9 cm) containing some variants, which he kept in his collection until his death. It is now displayed in the Fogg Art Museum in Cambridge, Massachusetts (USA - photo in the gallery).
A remembrance of his beloved wife Madeleine can be found in Le bain turc (The Turkish Bath), painted in 1862: the odalisque with arms raised is inspired by a drawing depicting Madeleine in 1818. Ingres ubsequently died on January 14, 1867 (at 11 quai Voltaire) in Paris.
2. Description of the artwork
The composition of The Golden Age is tripartite: on the left, a group of figures around Astraea, who symbolizes Justice; in the center, a group of women dancing around an altar; on the right, a group of figures around a newlywed couple. The iconographic message is clear: moral principles - Justice and Religion - are the foundations of family life and aristocratic society. The curved composition chosen by Ingres is a tribute to Raphael's Vatican Rooms.
The last of the immortals to live among humans during the Golden Age, Astraea or Astrape is the daughter of Zeus and Themis. She is the personification of Justice, which explains why she is often depicted with a scale in her hands. She appears, dressed in a white tunic to the left of the Dampierre's fresco (like also in its later copy by Ingres).
The preparation of the Dampierre frescoes generated intense graphic activity for Ingres. Over five hundred related drawings are known to exist, most of which are kept at the Musée Ingres-Bourdelle in Montauban. Henry Lapauze, in his book devoted to Ingres published in 1911, wrote about those studies: "The master's pencil shows itself to be both more fluid and tighter than anywhere else. He has never been more spontaneous than in these studies, quivering with youth and life, rich with movement, ideal and joy".
The studies devoted to Astraea in the Musée Ingres-Bourdelle (last three photos in the gallery) reveal the painter's creative path in the creation of this key character: the setting up of a stature from a nude, trials on the tunic, which firstly covered only the lower half of the body (as in our drawing), then eventually draping the whole body as seen in the final version.
This iconographic evolution can perhaps be explained by the difficulty Ingres felt with the composition he had chosen, as can be perceived from the letter he wrote to his friend Marcotte in 1847: "And always working from the nude, nothing but the nude without being able to make use of the beautiful colors of the palette on the draperies".
3. A very specific drawing technique
The different stages of the drawing can be found in the different materials used in our drawing, where Ingres displays a great dexterity in mixing techniques.
Astraea's silhouette is simply sketched with a brown ink line. This iron gall ink (usually obtained by a reaction between a vegetable substance such as tannin and iron sulfate) becomes lighter under the effect of iron oxidation and takes on a golden hue like in our drawing. It is much more suitable than carbon ink for pen work.
The sketch of the face and the signature are made in graphite pencil. Invented at the end of the eighteenth century by inserting a mixture of white clay and graphite powder into a wooden sheath, this medium was used extensively by Ingres throughout his career.
Finally, most of the drapery is executed in black chalk pencil, obtained from a natural rock rich in carbon, sometimes mixed with other constituents such as black smoke to reinforce the color. The black pencil strokes can be easily stumped, as in the pleat or under the elbow notch in our study.
Our drawing is presented in a simple frame made out a gilded baguette, probably from the 19th century. A large passe-partout balances the elongated character of this beautiful drawing.
Main bibliographical references :
Henry Lapauze – Ingres, sa vie & son œuvre (1780 – 1867) d’après des documents inédits – 1911
Georges Vigne – Ingres – Abbeville Press 1995
Pierre Viguie - Ingres et l’âge d’or - La Revue des Deux Mondes - décembre 1967
(under the supervision of) Vincent Pomarède, Stéphane Guégan, Louis-Antoine Prat et Eric Bertin - Catalogue de l’exposition Ingres du Musée du Louvre (24 février 2006 – 15 mai 2006) – Gallimard/ Musée du Louvre 2006
Catalogue de l’exposition Ingres du Musée du Louvre (24 février 2006 – 15 mai 2006) – Gallimard/ Musée du Louvre 2006
(under the supervision of) Florence Viguier-Dutheil - Ingres – Secrets de dessin; Le Passage 2011
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