Studies of Legs, Hands, and the Profile of a Head for The Martyrdom of St. Symphorien
Signed and inscribed at lower right, Ingres; inscribed at upper right in black chalk, pour le ... / clair demiteinte rouge / chaud fort clair pas / autant les angles / blancs / 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / clair.
Purchased as the gift of Mrs. Charles Wrightsman, 1985
This sheet, which reveals much about Ingres's working process, was made as a study for one of his most lauded, albeit controversial, paintings, The Martyrdom of St. Symphorien. The artist worked on the painting from 1825 until 1834; over two hundred preparatory drawings are preserved in the Musée Ingres, Montauban. Many critics excoriated the finished composition when it was exhibited at the Salon, prompting the artist to flee Paris for an impromptu vacation and gravely wounding his pride.
Symphorien was a youth martyred in his native Augustodunum (present-day Autun) in about 160–79 for refusing to prostrate himself before an idol of the pagan goddess Cybele. The painting was commissioned by the bishop of Autun for the cathedral, where it remains in situ. The myriad changes made between these vigorous sketches and the finished painting suggest that Ingres was still experimenting with the details for the composition.