June 15, 2012
WE DISCUSSED (here and here) one of the stunning female portraits of Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres — the portrait of the Comtesse D’Haussonville. Here is another captivating face, that of Madame Frederic Reiset. The oil painting was completed in 1846. Notice its conscious resemblance to the early form of photography, the daguerreotype, which would have been capturing attention then.
The art critic Kenneth Clark wrote that Madame Reiset was a friend of the painter’s and “one can feel it.” Clark wrote in his book The Romantic Rebellion:
Madame Reiset has recorded that when he was painting it she used to hear Monsieur Ingres groaning and sobbing in the next room, so painful to him was the attempt to combine truth and style.
Ingres had a way of harmonizing the sumptuous clothing of the era with personality. The delicate lace collar here complements the melting quality of Madame Reiset’s face and turns a somewhat austere gown into a thing of great beauty. As for the dramatic ringlets, they are the perfect enclosure — like an ornate wrought iron fence around a garden — for the deep pools of Madame Reiset’s eyes.
Everything about Madame Reiset as conveyed in this portrait is a standing rebuke to modern feminism. To a feminist, her passivity, her elegance, her delicacy — all are signs of her victimization.