Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres painted the famous portrait of Marie-Clotilde-Inès Moitessier in 1856. Ingres insisted on capturing every detail from life for “the faithful rendering of nature that leads to art.” Madame Moitessier was a wealthy banker’s wife living in Paris and is depicted seated in an off-the-shoulder dress with Renaissance-revival jewelry.
Interestingly, Ingres believed portraiture was less important than history paintings and initially refused to paint Madame Moitessier when first asked. However, the portrait took several years to complete as it was left unfinished for some time before Ingres returned to finish it in 1851 and 1852.
Madame Moitessier is considered an iconic example of French portraiture due to its realistic portrayal of natural light and intricate details like the bertha collar trimmed with tassels. The painting showcases the luxurious fabrics used in fashionable dress during this time period while capturing the elegance and beauty of Madame Moitessier. Today, it remains one of Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres’ most celebrated works, admired for its subtle play between naturalism and idealism.