Prince Ferdinand Philippe of Orléans (1810-1842) was the eldest son of Louis Philippe d’Orléans, Duke of Orléans and future King Louis Philippe I. As the eldest son, he was the heir to the title of Duke of Orléans.
A courageous military man, astute diplomat and visionary politician, as well as an art lover and patron, the Duke commissioned Jean-August Dominique Ingres, who was among his favourite artists, to paint his portrait in 1840 — the prototype of the picture being offered for sale this April in New York.
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Ingres was immensely proud of this commission, and there were numerous subsequent sittings for the portrait, which brought the two men closer and led to a mutual admiration developing.
When the Duke died in a carriage accident in July 1842, just three months after the painting was completed, Ingres was shocked and saddened. He wrote to his friends: ‘I am annihilated and almost discouraged! I do nothing but cry and I will cry for a long time’, and ‘The death of my prince, who was so amiable, has shattered my heart’.
Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780-1867), Portrait of Ferdinand-Philippe-Louis-Charles-Henri of Bourbon Orleans, Duke of Orleans, 1844. Oil on canvas. 29⅜ x 23⅞ in. (74.5 x 60.5 cm.) Estimate: $400,000-600,000
This picture, commissioned in 1843 by his widow, the Duchess of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, was to be the modello for the full-length portrait commissioned later that year by the French state for the chapel built in commemoration of the Duke’s death.
The work acquired the status of ‘national icon’ and, in the following years, numerous copies were commission from Ingres and his studio. Yet, according to Ingres’ account book, there exist a total of only five versions by Ingres of the Portrait of the Duke, of which one is the present work.
The quality of the execution of a number of details — the gaze of the prince, the elongated neck, the stars of the divisional general — demonstrate the hand of the master, while the contribution of the studio remains uncertain.
On her death in 1859 the Duchess of Orléans possessed not one but two works considered by her to be by Ingres. One — the version now in the Louvre — she left to her eldest son; the other, went to her youngest son, the Duke of Chartes. It is this version which has since remained in the family, miraculously escaping destruction at the hands of the Nazis in 1944, and which is offered for sale at Christie’s in April.
The well-documented work, which is being sold by the direct descendants of the family, will be included in the curated cross-category sale Revolution. Highlights of Classic Art at Christie’s, which includes Old Master Paintings, Antiquities, Sculpture, Decorative Arts, and this new cross-category sale, will be on show at the Rockefeller Center in New York from 23 January to 7 February.
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