The original painting by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780-1867) is of 'Madame de Senonnes, née Marie-Genevieve-Marguerite Marcoz, later Vicomtesse de Senonnes'. It was painted in 1814 in Rome where the sitter, a divorcée, was well-established as the mistress of Alexandre de la Motte-Barace, Vicomte de Senonnes, a collector and amateur artist whom she married in 1815 after their return to Paris (where he became the Inspector General of the Musées Royaux). The painting was acquired by the Musée de Nantes in 1853.
Tissot was born in Nantes in 1836 and spent most of his early years there, until he went to study in Paris some time late in 1856. He is known to have been a regular visitor to the museum in Nantes. He may have painted his copy of the Ingres portrait before he went to Paris (as Wentworth suggests), but is more likely to have painted it on a visit home during his early years of study. For in Paris Tissot studied with two pupils and close followers of Ingres - Hippolyte Flandrin and Louis Lamothe - both of whom paid homage to the master, as well as passing on what they had learned of his compositions and technique. Tissot is known to have copied several works by Ingres (he is reputed to have met James Whistler when the two of them were copying Ingres's Roger deliverant Angelique at the Luxembourg museum).
Flandrin had remained very close to Ingres and it is highly likely that Flandrin's pupils - including Tissot - would have visited Ingres's studio. There, in January 1857, the newly-arrived Tissot would have seen the recently completed portrait of Madame Moitessier, Seated (now in the collection of the National Gallery, London). The sumptuous dress, jewellery, meticulously painted details and pose before a mirror must have had a stunning effect on Tissot, as their influence is clearly evident in his portraits and modern-life works from about 1860 onwards. One can imagine him rushing to copy the nearest equivalent he had at home - Ingres's protrait of Madame de Senonnes - when on a visit back to Nantes, especially as Madame de Senonnes is also posed before a mirror, in luxurious gown and jewellery. The mood of the latter sitter is also uncannily close to that of many women in Tissot's pictures, suggesting both careful study and a chord struck that re-echoes in Tissot's later work. It is a mood 'difficult to define, shifting almost imperceptibly between warm voluptuousness and calm detachment' (Philip Conisbee, Portraits by Ingres: Image of an Epoch, catalogue to the exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1999). The pictorial device of a mirror, used several times by Ingres, also became a favourite with Tissot. Mirrors can create a sense of volume and space, but in Madame de Senonnes, 'the mirror hardly reflects the room: rather, it creates a shadowed and ambiguous space, bringing an air of mystery...to the painting, and to the sitter' (Philip Conisbee, op. cit.). Tissot's paintings are imbued with similar ambiguousness and mystery.
Tissot's copy of Ingres's painting therefore records a seminal influence on his work, and is more than just a copy after a master.
The influence of both Madame de Senonnes and Madame Moitessier, Seated is very clear in Tissot's first modern-life 'tour de force', Mlle L.L...(Jeune femme en veste rouge), exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1864 (and now in the collecton of the Musée du Louvre, Paris). Mirror, pose, and meticulously painted detail of costume and interior: all show how well Tissot absorbed Ingres, and how fluently he learned the painting technique of the master through his pupils and followers, Flandrin and Lamothe.
We are grateful to Krystyna Matyjaszkiewicz for her help in preparing this catalogue entry.