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Baron Joseph-Pierre Vialetès de Mortarieu, 1805-1806

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres

French, 1780-1867
Oil on canvas
24-1/8 x 19-3/4 in. (61.2 x 50.2 cm)
The Norton Simon Foundation
F.1983.03.P
© The Norton Simon Foundation

On view

This portrait was painted just before Ingres’s departure for Rome in September 1806. The bust-length likeness of the baron is carefully described within a triangular silhouette that descends from the soft curls of the subject’s head to his blue-black coat. Within this outline, one sees Ingres’s unswerving attention to detail and local color tempered subtly by his attempt to idealize the subject, who makes a vivid impression with his gaze. The sinuous rhythms defined by the multiple white collars and the cravat provide additional animation. As in other portraits of this early period, Ingres shows the impeccably attired baron standing before a vast sky punctuated with soft and airy clouds, a romantic conceit with precedents that date back to the Renaissance, but which serves here as a foil to the calm and secure expression of the subject.

Baron Vialètes was an avid collector and patron of the arts. Elected mayor of Montauban, Ingres’s hometown in southwest France, his appointment may have occasioned this portrait. In 1843 the baron founded the city museum, which later became the Musée Ingres.

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