Portrait of Guillaume Guillon-Lethière
Signed and inscribed at lower right, M. de Ingres / a Mad.lle Lescot / ...
Bequest of Therese Kuhn Straus in memory of her husband, Herbert N. Straus, 1977
Born in Sainte-Anne, Guadeloupe, in 1760, Guillaume Guillon-Lethière was the illegitimate child of a king's prosecutor and a freed black slave. After displaying a youthful aptitude for draftsmanship, he moved to Paris at the age of fourteen and eventually established himself as a formidable history painter. After securing influential allies, such as Lucien Bonaparte, he was appointed director of the French Academy in Rome. Ingres was beginning his second year as a pensionnaire when Lethière arrived in October 1807. From 1808 to 1818, Ingres executed no fewer than ten portraits of Lethière, including this virtuoso sheet depicting the middle-aged director in all of his convivial pomposity.