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Wearing her finest clothes and jewellery, Madame Moitessier gazes majestically at us. She is the embodiment of luxury and style during the Second Empire, which saw the restoration of the French imperial throne and the extravagant display of wealth. Her distinctive pose is based upon a Roman wall painting from Herculaneum depicting the goddess of Arcadia. The portrait was commissioned in 1844 to celebrate the marriage two years earlier of Marie Clotilde-Inès de Foucauld to the wealthy merchant, Sigisbert Moitessier. Ingres was initially reluctant to accept the commission, but changed his mind after meeting the 23-year-old Madame Moitessier, whom he described as ‘beautiful and good’. Nonetheless, it took him 12 years to complete the painting.
Oil on canvas
H 120 x W 92.1 cm