Ingres’ Napoleon I on His Imperial Throne (1806)
Ingres' painting of Napoleon is a striking picture. When I first thought of comparing the face in it to Ingres' self-portrait, it was the first I did of an important historical character portrayed by other painters too. I was surprised. I then wondered whether Napoleon's other portraits would resemble the artist who painted it. And, surprisngly, they do. This raised a significant issue. If portraits of the same person by Ingres, David, Gros, Girodet, Delaroche and Appiani, each resemble the artist then the ingrained belief that Old Master portraits were intended as accurate likenesses is questionable. I already suspected other genres of art were not depictions of exterior reality. Now nor were portraits.1
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Why these faces look alike is uncertain because the self-portrait is from 30 years later.1 In any event Ingres could not have depicted Napoleon with any accuracy, i.e., from life, because he was young and un-commissioned. A Government inspector later said so, reporting that the finished picture did not resemble the Emperor.2
See conclusion below
More Works by Ingres
Why would a great master when copying a portrait by an earlier master change the features of the portrait sitter?
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