Arts & Culture


Portrait of the Marquis and Marchioness of Miramon and their children

James Tissot1865

Musée d’Orsay, Paris
Musée d’Orsay, Paris

The Marquis of Miramon poses with his wife Thérèse and their first two children, on the terrace of the family château. Here Tissot displays an elegant mastery of the rules of society portrait painting, and its composition is his most complex yet.

The choice of a natural setting, rare in the history of French portrait painting, echoes the aristocratic English portrait set in the countryside. The Marquis' relaxed pose, and the young boy looking away, his leg bent (signs of child-like impatience reflecting that of the young Giulia in Degas' The Bellelli Family), the good-natured dog and the incongruous, sophisticated still-life on the right, all animate the scene. By borrowing from the English style in this way, the artist moves outside the established conventions.

From 1859, Tissot had decided to assert his love of all things English by adopting the first name James, and this picture, in complete accord with the wishes of his models, provides one of his first artistic expressions of this passion. In addition, the beautiful autumnal note of the painting owes much to Dante Gabriel Rossetti and John Everett Millais, English artists whom Tissot used to visit in London. He does however remain faithful to the Ingres style, particularly in the shimmering fabrics, which bring out his delicate and precise touch and provide a reminder of the family's commercial interests in drapery and hats. The Portrait of the Marquis and Marchioness of Miramon and their children is therefore a prime example of the brilliant work Tissot was producing in the 1860s, and it underlines the importance of an artist who refused to conform to established practices.

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