The present drawing, executed with all of Ingres’ characteristic refinement and exquisite handling, illustrates perfectly the prodigious talent the Frenchman possessed as both a portraitist and a draughtsman. Depicting his friend and close working associate, Alexis-René Le Go, with whom Ingres worked at the Académie de France in Rome, between 1834 and 1841, this drawing is fascinating not only for the way in which it sheds further light on Ingres’ handsome and impeccably executed portrait drawings, but also the manner in which he chose to portray his close friends and confidantes, in contrast to his more commercial portrait commissions. Indeed much of the serenity and kindness that emanates from this characterful and deeply personal drawing can only be fully understood when one appreciates the indispensable role Le Go played in Ingres’ life, as well as the context in which the artist found himself in Rome, in late 1834.
Following a predominantly negative response at the 1834 Salon to his composition of The Martyrdom of St. Symphorien, Ingres, in frustration at what he deemed to be a deeply personal slight from the French art establishment, applied for the post of Director of the French Academy in Rome, and travelled out to the Eternal City in December of the same year, to take up his new post. The city of Rome had long held great fascination and convenience for Ingres, both for the integral role it played in his artistic formation, and for the fact that it was favorably located far enough away from the pretensions of Parisian society for him to be able to continue his career unabated, with minimal distractions from the French capital.
Ironically, Ingres’ first encounter with Alexis-René Le Go, was not face to face in Rome, but as an artist being critiqued in a review of the 1833 Salon1 -- an exhibition that Le Go had been asked to cover for the Revue de Paris. There is little doubt that Le Go might well have chosen his words more diplomatically, had he known that within a few months Ingres would be his Director in Rome, however his relatively lightweight criticism of Ingres’ portraits of Madame Duvaucey and Louis-Francois Bertin must have seemed like water off a duck’s back, in comparison to the lambasting Ingres had recently received for his Martyrdom of St. Symphorien.
Indeed, shortly after arriving in Rome, it became clear to Ingres that Le Go was not only going to be an indispensable asset to him, in a capacity as his secretary, helping to polish the artist’s somewhat awkward writings into documents worthy of the Académie, but that, on a more personal level, the two men were going to strike up a longstanding friendship, that would last until Ingres’ eventual return to Paris in 1841.
Nothing illustrates or preserves the memory of this friendship quite as intimately as the present portrait drawing, which Ingres chose to affectionately inscribe: offert à Son ami / mr Lego, and that the great Ingres scholar, Hans Naef, describes as “the ultimate token of his friendship”.
Ingres portrays Le Go as an elegant and engaging figure, carrying in his hands all of the accoutrements of a 19th-century gentleman of his stature, including a top hat, gloves and a walking stick. Le Go is placed by the artist in a setting of great personal relevance to them both, standing in front of one of the columns of the loggia, on the garden side of the palace at the Villa Medici: the Mannerist villa that remains the home of the French Academy in Rome to the present day.
Beyond the everyday administration of the French Academy, it is also quite apparent that Ingres and his wife Delphine regularly engaged with Monsieur and Madame Le Go, on a purely social basis. This is illustrated through a second portrait drawing by Ingres, depicting the beautiful Madame Alexis-René Le Go, (Fig.1) executed in 1841, and intended to complement the present work, as well as the fact that the Le Gos touchingly named Ingres and his wife as Godparents to their daughter Zéphyrine, in 1839.
Shortly before Ingres’ departure from Rome in 1841, the artist wrote to Comte Charles-Marie Tanneguy Duchâtel, the minister in charge of the Academy, and amongst other things he noted his high praise for Le Go and the splendid duties he was performing in Rome. Le Go was subsequently awarded the cross of the Legion of Honor and remained in Rome until his retirement in 1873, by which time he had served under a further five directors at the Villa Medici, during the course of a hugely distinguished career.
The present drawing was photoengraved by E. Charreyre in 1896,2 and the composition is also known through a pencil copy by an unknown artist, in a private collection in Youngstown, Ohio.3
1. See Portraits of Ingres: Image of an Epoch, exhib. cat., 1999, p. 340
2. see G. Duplessis, op. cit., no. 17, reproduced
3. see Ingres in American Collections, New York, Paul Rosenberg and Co., 1961, exhib. cat., no. 48, reproduced
Please call 1-800-555-5555 to order a print catalog for this sale.
Online Registration to Bid is Closed for this Sale. Would you like to watch the live sale?Watch Live Sale