J.-A.-D. Ingres
(Montauban, 1780-1867, Paris)
Hippolyte-François Devillers, 1811
Oil on canvas, 96.5 x 78.5 cm
Signed, inscribed & dated lower left: Ingres à Rome 1811
Wildenstein 79
Right up to the end of his long life, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres exerted a huge influence on the French painting of his time. As the portrait painter to the most powerful people in France and the recipient of prestigious public commissions, Ingres was seen as the epitome of the classical, academic artist. The portrait in the Bührle Collection was painted in 1811 in Rome, where Ingres had recently started out on his career with a bursary from the French Academy. At the time, Rome was under French rule and Hippolyte-François Devillers, whom we see here, was an officer in Napoleon's army. Amongst other tasks, he was responsible for moving the French Academy into the Villa Medici, which is how he made the acquaintance of the young artist. The formal vocabulary used by Ingres in his paintings draws on that of Raphael. Thoroughly in the spirit of academic doctrine, he modelled his own artistic endeavours on Renaissance paintings from Rome, especially when tackling historical or religious themes. The portrait of Devillers, with its dark background, is of a simpler calibre. It remains impressive on account of the precise observation and rendering of detail. This is evident in the amazingly realistic appearance of the silk lining of the uniform, or in the fine, softly rendered hair of the subject. Typical of Ingres' style is the fact that individual brushstrokes are undetectable. The paintings flaunt a surface that seems as perfect as porcelain. Layout lines and traces of corrections made as the composition progressed were not for the public to see – a work of art was supposed to be the embodiment of an accomplished solution.