Comparing Portraits by Ingres and Manet

I chose to compare “Portrait of Joseph-Antoine Moltedo” by Ingres from 1810 and “The Spanish Singer” by Manet from 1860. I think these two works have both similarities and differences that stand out. They are both portraitures and have similar style even though they belong to different art movements — both of these paintings made with oil on canvas.

Ingres painted Moltedo, a famous businessman and inventor. His portrayal of Moltedo is very calm and secure. He looks straight with a little smile. In the background, we see a Napoleonic Rome, the Appian Way, and the Colosseum. These background objects of the painting show that it is not a realistic painting made outside, but it was made in a studio, and Ingres put the background objects as he wanted. Ingres chose dark colors, and a gloomy atmosphere with big dark clouds, but we see some pretty blue behind the darkness. The detail is important on his shirt and the buttons. Ingres’ painting is much smaller than Manet’s. On the other hand, Manet painted a man in his studio, so this man does not have importance or a personality that reflects the painting. He is a characterization, a musician type even. It was composed in the studio, and the things around him (including the guitar) are props. Actually, he is left-handed, but the guitar is for a right-handed player, and some of the props reappear in Manet’s other portraitures. Manet was influenced by the Spanish art, and took the subject matter, composition and technique from Velásquez. The featureless brown background, the somber range of earth tones are very typical Velásquez, but of course, we see Manet’s talent in the realistic details of the painting. The bold brushwork makes a strong composition, the enlightened areas like the white of the shirt or around his hand really stands out. 

MANET – “The Spanish Singer”

INGRES – “Portrait of Joseph-Antoine Moltedo”

Ingres painted in Neoclassic style, which he learned from his teacher Jacques-Louis David. Ingres saw himself very connected to past artistic traditions, so he carried Greco-Roman ideals. Even though he wanted to be a painter of history, he was a great portrait painter which became his legacy. Portraits were souvenirs rich people got when they visited somewhere, so he made money to live out of this. His portraitures are very realistic, with extraordinary detail. Additionally, Manet’s depiction of the Spanish singer is in a realistic style. Even though both paintings seem similar, they differ in details. His depiction of muscles in fingers and face makes it look like the man can come out of the painting and start playing. The first part of Manet’s artistic life has been full of portraitures in a realistic style, and he transitioned to Impressionism around 1868. He is very talented in doing both. What specifically captured my eye looking at this painting is the size of it. In MET, a couple of large Manet portraits stand next to each other, all in the same style that you can understand they are all made in a studio, but each of them have their own charm. The impression on the Spanish singer’s face and how he is sitting adds a sense of motion in the painting, which is something we do not have in Ingres. Ingres is more focused on showcasing who the person, and they almost always have a straight face.

I loved both of the paintings. I think Ingres’ portraits are so beautiful, that he gives importance to every detail that people in it seem holistic in a sense. The texture of clothing and the purity on the face captures the eyes. The only issue I have is the subject looks a little trapped in the frame, so I could ask for more space from the sides. I prefer Manet’s impressionist paintings, just because I love impressionists, but his portraits have a different form that I did not see in another painting. They are enchanting. The subject looks very realistic and cartoonish at the same time. Realism is characterized by giving importance to every object, and we see that in Manet. Looking at these two paintings together made me think of different angles you can create a portrait, and as a photographer, it applies to me as well. How you frame the subject and what you put as objects next to him or her has enormous importance in viewer understanding the subject. 

Both of these paintings are on view in Metropolitan Museum of Art.


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