La Fornarina and Raphael by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres

La Fornarina and Raphael
Oil on canvas
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Massachusetts, USA

Conceived as part of a series of paintings illustrating the life of Ingres’ idol, Raphael, La Fornarina depicts the Renaissance master in the arms of his mistress. Ultimately Ingres abandoned the project, however he painted five or six versions of this scene, showcasing both his adoration of Raphael and his own mastery of precision and illusionistic styles. In the painting Ingres gives the viewer an intimate insight into both the professional and private lives of Raphael. Located in the Raphael’s studio, a barely started canvas is on the easel before him and his model, la Farnarina, had moved from her pose to embrace the artist. Engrossed in his work the artists gaze is fixed on his painting, while his model looks out to the viewer, giving the moral to the painting that the high calling of art must not be abandoned for the pleasures of love and leisure.

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres
Neoclassicism, Romanticism, Orientalism
Born: 29 August 1780, Montauban, France
Nationality: French
Died: 14 January 1867, Paris, France

Ingres was a Neoclassical painter, profoundly influenced by past artistic traditions and aspired to be a guardian of academic orthodoxy against the rise of Romanticism. He considered himself a painter of history but it is his portraits that are recognized as his greatest legacy. With is expressive distortions of form and space he was an important precursor of modern art, influencing Matisse, Picasso, and other modernists.

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