Arts & Culture

Comtesse d'Haussonville

Jean-August-Dominique Ingres1845

The Frick Collection
The Frick Collection

This work resulted from a somewhat begrudging encounter—on the artist's part—between the greatest portrait painter in France, in his sixties, and a young princess in her twenties—by then the mother of three. Louise, Princesse de Broglie (1818-1882), granddaughter of the formidable author Madame de Stael, had married the young Vicomte d'Haussonville at the age of eighteen. In her remarkably frank memoirs, Louise said of herself at this time, "I was destined to beguile, to attract, to seduce, and in the final reckoning to cause suffering in all those who sought their happiness in me." If this was the case with her husband, it did not affect his love for her. For her time and elevated social position, Louise was outspokenly independent and liberal. She published a number of books, including biographies of Byron and the Irish revolutionary Robert Emmet. Ingres worked on this canvas for three years, with several false starts and a great many preparatory drawings. In the end, the artist noted that the work, completed in 1845, had "aroused a storm of approval." One close friend of the family told him, "You must have been in love to depict her this way." And indeed there is something provocatively intimate in this scene, as though Ingres had happened upon his sitter in the corner of her boudoir, nonchalantly leaning on an upholstered fireplace.

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