Artist: Théodore Chassériau (French, Le Limon, Saint-Domingue, West Indies 1819–1856 Paris)
Medium: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 52 x 37 1/4 in. (132.1 x 94.6 cm)
Credit Line: Wrightsman Fund, 2002
Accession Number: 2002.291
This likeness of the wife of the French ambassador to the Vatican expresses Chassériau’s subtle defiance of J. A. D. Ingres, his teacher. He subverted Ingres’s approach by casting a melancholic mood over the picture, by banishing bright colors, and by abandoning the master’s meticulous naturalism and smooth polish for a stylized and painterly depiction of sitter and setting. (The countess posed in the garden of the French embassy in Rome.) When the portrait was shown at the 1841 Salon, critics objected to its Romantic qualities—the expressive elongation of the head, the gazelle-like eyes, the pallor of the skin, and the delicacy of the hands.