The artist gave the young man a fine expression, not only in the features, but also in the mind of his model, a lively imagination. The man is holding a tablet and stylus. He exhaled, kept his mouth open and casting his eyes up toward heaven, as if seeking inspiration from the gods, a desperate remark over the feared loss of his artistic ability.
The work is an allegory of artists struggling to find inspiration in the period when the appreciation of artistic inspiration and creative genius grew significantly. Art became the sole motivating force of artist’s life through which he gained access to the upper circles.
The model’s features are similar to those of painter’s friend, composer Victor Dourlen. It is therefore possible that the young man stood for this portrait. Ingres, along with Louis-Aimon Thomassin, wins the Prix du Torse at the Paris’ School of Fine Arts for this work on January 29th, 1802. They both painted the model in the same pose (Thomassin’s work preserved in the School of Fine Arts, inventory MU 4540 bis).
Ingres, was known as a student of Jacques-Louis David, trained in his neoclassical, static style. If not signed, the canvas could be attributed to Ingres’ tutor or his atelier as David's classicism was the official style of the French Academy until late in the 1800's. Ingres eventually developed his own style, owing much to Raphael.
Signed by the artist on lower right: Ingres 1801. In 1803 the canvas was lent by the School of Fine Arts in Paris to the School of Drawing in Montauban. Later, through Leclerc collection in Paris and Kolasiński collection in Warsaw it found its place in the Museum of Fine Arts (later National Museum) in Warsaw as gift of Cyprian Lachnicki, ceded in 1908.
oil on canvas, 1801, 97.5 x 80.6 cm (38.3 × 31.7 in), inventory number M.Ob.292, on permanent display in the Gallery of 19th century art, Muzeum Narodowe w Warszawie (MNW)
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