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The Villa Medicis at the time of Ingres

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Ingres had recently met with failure at the Paris Salon of 1834 with The Martyrdom of Saint Symphorian, by which he set great store. The work that he called his ‘maître-tableau’ (master painting) had been eclipsed by Paul Delaroche’s Execution of Lady Jane Grey. Feeling extremely bitter and resentful, he envisaged a retreat from public life. ‘Monsieur Ingres’ – an artist steeped in the academic tradition, and an embodiment of Classicism – was touchy, obstinate, and given to sulking... which is partly what makes him so interesting. While attaining the heights of pure aesthetic creation, he kept his feet firmly planted in a very limited daily existence. His painting is as detached from reality as he as a man was down to earth and approachable. Ingres’s dejection increased when he was appointed director of the Académie de France in Rome. Instead of seeing the appointment as the favour it was, he felt that he was being sent there too soon, and for the wrong reason: to get rid of him. All of the events of 1834, a series of vexations, therefore amounted, he thought, to a conspiracy against him. Flatly declaring that he was retiring for good from public life, he left at the end of 1834 for six years of ‘voluntary exile’ (as he put it) in Rome.

English translation : May Pardoe.

Related persons


Jean-Auguste-Dominique INGRES

(1780 - 1867)