Date of Creation:
Musée du Louvre
Musée du Louvre
Ingres' student, Robert Balze, described his teacher's working routine for portrait drawings. In the four hours he took for each work he used "an hour and a half in the morning, then two-and-a-half hours in the afternoon, he very rarely retouched it the next day. He often told me that he got the essence of the portrait while lunching with the model who, off guard, became more natural."
Ingres painted Napoleon I on His Imperial Throne, a self-portrait, and Mademoiselle Caroline Riviére, all of which were painted on a large canvas.
Ingres painted Madamoiselle Caroline along with her father Philibert Riviére, the Councilor of the State, and her mother Madame Riviére. Caroline, just fifteen when this portrait was painted, died that same year. This work remains the only one Ingres did of an adolescent. All three portraits, along with that of Napoleon were exhibited at the 1806 Salon.
inspiration for Mademoiselle Caroline Riviére may have come from a lesser known Renaissance artist, Piero di Cosimo. Similarities can be drawn as Cosimo also displays the sexuality of a young woman but very obviously. Ingres merely hints at this.
After 1797 while in Paris, Ingres studied in the studio of Jacques-Louis David. Though he earnestly studied the principals of composition and human anatomy, Ingres developed his own style, creating anatomical distortions as evident in Caroline Riviére's portrait.
There are other works however that may have more specifically influenced this portrait.
Some art historians have connected the portrait of Madamoiselle Caroline Riviére to the similarly "gothic" Portrait of Simonetta Vespucci by Piero di Cosimo. This Italian Renaissance painter, portrays Simonetta circa 1480 as Cleopatra with a snake around her neck and shawl wrapped over her shoulders but revealing her breasts. Though Caroline remains unexposed, the bower around her waist mimics the sexual suggestions hinted at by the snake around Simonetta's neck.
Use of Space:
The figure of Mademoiselle Caroline Riviére takes up the foremost portion of the canvas. She stands boldly in front of a flat background and underneath an archway that frames the canvas. It seems a little cramped and sometimes this portrait, as well as some of Ingres's others, is described as "suffocating". Ingres leaves a little breathing room on the left side of the canvas as the figure stands closer to the right edge. The landscape takes up minimal space in the background.
Ingres borrowed the sitter's pose from his role model, Raphael. Unlike the great Italian master however, Ingres painted with extreme anatomical inaccuracy. Caroline Riviére's neck is noticeably elongated and the bridge of her nose extends into her brow. Such "tweaking" outraged critics of his day.
Ingres often outlined his figures giving them a certain feel of flatness that caused critics to label his work "gothic."
Use of Color:
The white of Caroline's dress and bower make the young figure pop off of the canvas as she stands in front of a dismal, dreary and distant bluish-green landscape. Her porcelain skin makes her dark eyes and ebony hair all the more youthful and they provide an excellent contrast. Ingres paints her full lips in a natural pinkish hue echoing the color of youth that resides on her cheeks.
The artist's choice of white dress signifies her purity and though the bower twirled around her is also the color of innocence, its curvature lends credence to a peaking sexual interest.
The figure of Caroline Reviére is outlined in a shadow, a common technique for Ingres. Light rests on her forehead and collar bone and the ribbon just below her bust catches a glimpse of light.
Though the 15-year-old is dressed and adorned in the color of innocence, and her expression reveals "simple thoughts" some critics take note of the sexuality Ingres suggests in the portrait of the adolescent. Her lips are supple and he elongates her bare neck. Her long gloves are matched by an even longer bower that circles her tiny frame, signifying sexuality.
The town behind and below her resides into a quiet shadow giving an overall calming effect.
Ingres was said to have hated a "noticeable" brushstroke. On this canvas, as well as most of his other works, he uses a tight brushstroke to create the photorealism of this portrait. The tightness of his brushwork enabled Ingres to create surfaces and textures that so closely resembled real life: the fluffy fur of the bower, the ridges in her dress, the satin of the ribbon below her bust, the sheer trim of her trace and the smooth suede of her gloves.
Critics of later ages would finally come to recognize the undeniable talent of Ingres' fashion sense in this portrait as would later focus on its undeniable sexuality when compared to his later paintings of harem women.
Mademoiselle Caroline Rivière Critical Reception
Portrait of Monsieur Rivière
Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres
Portrait of Madame Rivière
Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres
La Grande Odalisque
Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres
Works By Ingres:
The portraits of Caroline's parents are still in existence but receive less attention than Caroline's and rightfully so. If one was to put all three paintings side by side, it would appear that Caroline's remains completely unrelated to the others. Neither her father nor mother's portraits received Ingres' special attention and they lack his signature touch: anatomical distortions. They look like portraits that could've been done by any talented, struggling artist of the time.
Perhaps Ingres had a certain physical attraction to the young girl which would explain his desire to perfect her further by tweaking several of her features. He elongates Caroline's neck and extends the bridge of her nose all the way to her brow line. He adjusted the bodies of all women he worked on, including the odalisque and the harem women. Some critics have gone as far as to say that the many of Ingres' portraits, including Caroline Riviere's, are just a clothed reproduction of his distorted nudes.
The facial expressions between the Riviére family are also different. Caroline's father exudes a polite shy smile, a character to be easily overlooked. Her mother shares that same innocent yet quizzical gaze but lacks the deeper qualities Ingres had brought to the canvas of her daughter. With Caroline he suggested something more; an awakening desire behind her large young eyes. She cannot be overlooked but instead entices the viewer and draws them into her gaze.
He also pays specific and greater attention to Caroline's wardrobe. Her father wears the ordinary uniform of a statesman, neatly pressed and perfectly in place. Her mother is cloaked in a white dress and veil, and further wrapped in a beige shawl. The twirling of her fabrics suggests nothing besides a lazy day for the sitter. The white of Caroline's dress is far more significant than the white of her mother's. Caroline's white represents purity and innocence, a color he later defiles with the shape of the long white bower. It curves around her young body suggesting a flair of sexuality.
The settings are different. He places her parents indoors, her father sitting at his desk and her mother on a couch. They both have blank backgrounds and seem just another flat, dead canvas of any ordinary sitter. Caroline on the other hand, stands outdoors above a sleeping town in the background behind her. The whole world is at her gloved fingertips.
Mademoiselle Caroline Rivière was bequeathed to the Louvre in 1870 by Caroline Rivière's sister-in-law.
Neoclassicism is the 18th century revival of classical beliefs. It differs from other revivals as Neoclassical artists approached the ancient subject with a newer, more scientific approach. They also combined an interest in both ancient worlds; Greece and Rome. The artifacts uncovered at Pompeii and Herculaneum contributed significantly to this rebirth of classicism.
Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres absorbed the newly discovered ancient art. He studied it intently and was often criticized for reviving the ancient style. He also portrayed the absolute truth of life through the "pure and simple" verities of antiquity. Neoclassicism replaced the frivolity and superficiality of the Rococo era.
Find out more about this and Ingres's other works by referrig to the recommended reading list below.
• Boime, Albert. Art in an Age of Bonapartism, 1800-1815. Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1993
• Fisher, Jay M. The Essence Of Line: French Drawings From Ingres To Degas. Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State University Press, July, 2005
• Grimme, Karin H. Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres: Taschen Basic Art. New York: TASCHEN, December, 2006
• Vigne, Georges. Ingres. London: Abbeville Press, Incorporated. October, 1995
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