Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Aesthetic Madonna

Delacroix's longtime antagonist (whom Delacroix respected greatly) Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres set himself up as the champion of tradition in the face of threats from anarchist young Romantic upstarts like Delacroix. Ingres announced the availability of his services to the Bourbon Restoration with this painting that he exhibited in the Salon of 1824, the same Salon that saw the public exhibition of Delacroix's Massacre at Chios and Constable's Haywain from across the Channel. This is The Vow of King Louis XIII. The Father of the Sun King placed France under the protection of the Blessed Virgin of the Assumption, and Ingres made this very impressive, if not very lovable, monument to the union of Church and State.
Ingres had even less sympathy for the Christian religion than Delacroix, and it shows in this painting. The rather haughty Virgin and Child revealed by the angels who pull back the curtains is a revelation of what Ingres truly revered, not God, but Raphael. This painting is based on Raphael's famous Sistine Madonna in Dresden. Ingres forbade his students and studio assistants to pronounce Raphael's name in his presence. He felt so unworthy of the comparison. Raphael's work was for Ingres the perfect and harmonious synthesis of the best of the ancient classical past and of the "modern" (i.e. The Italian Renaissance). Raphael was the paragon of confidence and exactitude of form that Ingres felt very deeply was necessary for the art of any civilized society. And yet, for all his traditionalism, Ingres was as indifferent to the original meanings of Raphael's religious imagery as Delacroix. In his own very conservative way, he was as much a creature of the disillusionment of his era as the great Romantic.


johnieb said...

I guess I'll never make a French Monarchist; I prefer Delacroix's "Madonna".

Counterlight said...

That makes 2 of us.