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Ingres at the Morgan | Thaw Conservation Center

Materials and Methods

Read more: Introduction | Media | Paper | Drawing boards | Revising compositions | Resources


Fig. 8. Ingres likely used tracing paper to copy an earlier draft of this composition to this sheet.

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres. Study for the Mounted Centurion in The Martyrdom of St. Symphorien, 1825–34. Thaw Collection.

Fig. 9–10. Ingres used a blind stylus to transfer a preliminary drawing to this sheet and then drew over the inscribed lines with graphite. The image on the bottom, taken with Reflectance Transformation Imaging, or RTI, highlights the inscribed lines.

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres. Portrait of M. Guillaume Guillon-Lethière, 1815. Bequest of Therese Kuhn Straus in Memory of Her Husband, Herbert N. Straus, 1977.

Fig. 11. Ingres divided this drawing into small and large squares to facilitate transferring the image to another sheet.

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres. Study for Oedipus and the Sphinx, 1808. Gift of the Ian Woodner Family Collection in Honor of the Seventy-Fifth Anniversary of The Morgan Library, 1999.

Fig. 12–13. The image on top (taken with Reflectance Transformation Imaging, or RTI), shows that Ingres scraped away an area of the sitter's collar and burnished the paper. The image on the bottom, taken in raking light, shows where Ingres redrew the detail.

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres. Portrait of M. Guillaume Guillon-Lethière, 1815. Bequest of Therese Kuhn Straus in Memory of Her Husband, Herbert N. Straus, 1977.

REVISING COMPOSITIONS

Ingres's preparatory drawings demonstrate how he experimented with elements to be used in other compositions, and, as is to be expected, these studies include a variety of techniques for transferring and editing his work. To copy a design from one sheet to another, Ingres alternated among tracing paper, grids, and inscribed lines.

Ingres used a thin sheet of transparent tracing paper to transfer a preliminary design for Study for the Mounted Centurion (fig. 8). After tracing, the thinness of the paper was no longer an asset, and so he mounted it to heavier laid paper that provided the necessary strength to withstand further drawing and erasing as the artist elaborated the composition.

When tracing paper was not appropriate, such as for a finished portrait, Ingres used a blind stylus to transfer a design from one sheet to another. He would place a sheet of paper under the image to be transferred and trace the outline with a stylus, thus inscribing bare lines in the paper below. The cushion provided by a prefabricated drawing board was essential to prevent the sharp stylus from tearing the drawing paper. Ingres used this technique in Portrait of M. Guillaume Guillon-Lethière (fig. 9–10): he laid out the general composition in inscribed lines, most of which he later drew over with graphite. Looking closely, it is possible to see that the graphite sometimes skips over low points of inscribed lines, indicating that it was applied after the inscribed lines were made.

Ingres sometimes squared a sheet into a grid, either to transfer or scale the composition on another sheet. In Study for Oedipus and the Sphinx (fig. 11), Ingres used larger squares in simpler areas of the composition and quarter-sized squares in more complicated passages, such as the winged figure in the lower right corner and the cliffs in the upper right. He marked points along all four edges with a compass to lay out the grid, then drew in the lines of the grid as needed, using every point for smaller squares and every other point for larger squares.

Ingres's primary technique for removing a drawn line was to scrape the surface of the paper, lifting the top layer of paper fibers and the media embedded in them. This disrupted, roughened area would then be burnished smooth, resulting in a change in the paper's surface texture that is readily apparent when the drawing is examined in raking light. Ingres made very few changes while he worked on his portraits; when he did, it was often in the collars, cuffs, and outlines of the torsos, as seen in his Portrait of M. Guillaume Guillon-Lethière (fig. 12–13).

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Background images: Photography by Todd Eberle unless otherwise noted. © 2006 Todd Eberle.