Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres (French, 1780–1867)
Oil on canvas
15 7/8 x 12 7/8 in. (40.3 x 32.7 cm)
Gift of Lila and Herman Shickman, 2005 (2005.186)
While he was serving as director of the French Academy in Rome, Ingres received a commission from the Russian czarevitch, the future Alexander II, to paint a devotional image of the Virgin and the Host with the two patron saints of Russia, Alexander Nevsky and Nicholas. Ingres exhibited the finished picture to critical acclaim in Paris in April 1842 before shipping it to Saint Petersburg.
Ingres subsequently lamented that this painting was lost to France, and he made four variants of the rigorously Raphaelesque composition: this small, jewel-like picture, the first of the sequels, was made for his friend Louise Marcotte. Ingres replaced the Russian saints with two French ones, Helena and Louis, who must have had special significance for Madame Marcotte.