Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Vicomtesse Othenin d'Haussonville (1845)

Jean-August-Dominique Ingres: Vicomtesse Othenin d'Haussonville

Louise, Princesse de Broglie (1818–82) and granddaughter of Madame de Staël, married at the age of eighteen. Her husband was a diplomat, writer, and member of the French Academy, and she herself published a number of books, including biographies of Robert Emmet and Byron. For her time and her elevated social caste, she was outspokenly independent and liberal. This portrait, begun in 1842, was the fruit of several false starts and a great many preparatory drawings, including full-scale studies of the raised left arm, the head, and its reflection. According to a letter written by the artist, the finished work “aroused a storm of approval among her family and friends.” Ingres appears to have surprised the young lady in the intimacy of her boudoir, where she leans against an upholstered fireplace, having just discarded her evening wrap and opera glasses. [Frick]

The lady's memoirs have some interesting hints as to her character: a well-developed sense of self-regard ("I was destined to beguile, to attract, to seduce, and in the final reckoning to cause suffering to all those who sought their happiness in me.") and calculating approach to marriage ("I wanted to marry young and have a brilliant position in society. And that, basically, is the only reason I wanted to marry him.") [Amy Fine Collins, "Review of Ingres and the 'Comtesse d'Haussonville' by Edgar Munhall," Woman's Art Journal, Vol. 8, No. 1, pp. 48-51, 1987]

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