This picture shows Ingres' atelier; Ingres seems to have just stopped playing his beloved violin to look at or to talk to his wife, Madeleine Chapelle, whom he married in 1813. The violon d'Ingres has become a French metaphor to describe a hobby or a passion outside one's work (see H. Naef, Bulletin du muse Ingres, July 1973, XXXIII, pp. 19-22). In the Montauban version of the composition a pentimento is clearly visible around Madame Ingres' head, showing that the artist had originally intended to paint her standing, as in the present picture, not leaning against a chair (which might imply that the present picture was painted first). The artist may have preferred to attenuate her shape- she was described as 'elle avait d cetre ce qu'on appelle vulgairement un beau brin de fille, plus grande que son mari, et assez forte' (Amaury-Duval, L'Atelier d'Ingres, Edition critique de l'ouvrage publi en 1878, republished by D. Ternois, Paris, 1993, p. 119). The present picture differs in other ways to the Montauban version: for example, the latter includes a cat sleeping against the door of the partition in the second room.
Awarded the Prix de Rome in 1801, Ingres went in 1806 to Rome, where he was pensionnaire at the Villa Medici, and then set up lodgings at 40 Via Gregoriana. He was to return in 1835 to take up his appointment as Director of the French Academy. His friend and contemporary Alaux's career ran a similar course: born in 1786 in Bordeaux, he came second in the Prix de Rome of 1814, he went to the Villa Medici in 1816 and was also to become Director of the French Academy in Rome from 1847 to 1850.
This hitherto unpublished picture represents the studio of Ingres in Rome, painted by Alaux in 1818. The only other depiction of Ingres' Roman studio is the version of this composition in the Museum at Montauban, signed and dated 1818. (see fig. 1).
Several of the pictures seen in this work are recognizable: the portrait of the Spanish woman to the right of the door is in the Montauban Museum, attributed to Claudio Coello. In the second room, just visible on the easel, is Ingres' Philippe V, dcorant de la toison d'or, le marchal de Berwick, which was commissioned by the Duke of Alba and delivered in 1818. On the wall behind is the unfinished Duc d'Albe Sainte Gudule, now at Montauban. In the last room, beyond the partition, can be singled out the sketch for Jsus remettant les clefs Saint Pierre and a drawn copy of Holbein's Henry VIII.
In the year this picture was painted, Ingres drew Alaux's portrait (fig. 2): perhaps this was done in exchange for the Montauban Atelier, which remained in the artist's family until it was acquired by the museum in 1886. The full provenance of the present picture is yet to be established.