Heinrich Lehmann was born in the German town of Kiel. At seventeen he traveled to Paris where he quickly assimilated himself into the city's artistic circles. At the recommendation of Baron Gerard, he joined the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. He studied there under Ingres at a time when the latter's influence at the school was ascendant. As the foremost advocate of the Classical tradition in art, Ingres painting opposed the Romantics' vibrant brushwork in favor of a more idealized view that relied on sharp contours, highly polished surfaces and local color.
In 1835, Lehmann submitted his first work to the Salon, Le Dpart du jeune Tobie emmen par l'Ange Gabriel (Kunsthalle, Hamburg) for which he received a silver medal. Following sojourns to Hamburg and Munich, Lehmann rejoined Ingres in Rome in 1838. Rome was a magnet for artists and during his stay there he befriended the composer Franz List whose portrait he painted in 1840 (Muse Carnavalet, Paris). Lehmann also associated with the German artists Joseph Anton Koch and Anton Ramboux who, like Ingres, had studied under David. The city afforded Lehmann the opportunity to focus his studies on Classical and Renaissance masters, particularly Raphael whose influence is evident in our Portrait of Lo Faustine. Over the next two years Lehmann continued his travels to Paris, Naples and Rome, and it was not until 1842 that he fixed himself permanently in Paris, eventually becoming a naturalized French citizen in 1847.
1842 was a seminal year for Lehmann. The paintings he sent to the Salon were widely praised and he was awarded the important commission to decorate the chapel of Saint-Espirit Saint Merri which led to another commission for the chapel of Jeunes Aveugles. It was in this fertile artistic climate that Lehmann painted the portrait Mlle. Lo Faustine whose mother was a close friend of his. A drawing exists of Mme. Faustine (M.-M. Aubrun, Henri Lehmann, Paris, 1983, exh. cat., pp. 60-61, no. 37, illustrated). The composition and treatment of the subject matter reveal the influence of Ingres' Portrait of Mademoiselle Rivire (fig. 1). Painted in 1805, Lehmann posed his young subject against the backdrop of a verdant river landscape and painted her three-quarter length. The graceful curves of her form and the emphasis of line and color to the composition follow the lessons learned from his teacher closely. The young girl's innate beauty is emphasized through the subtle palette of pinks, ivories and blues. Lo Faustine projects an aura of sophistication that far exceeds her ten years of age, yet the picture also captures the psychological tension of the moment. While her relaxed shoulders and tilting head (with a wisp of hair blowing against her neck) project a sense of ease, her clenched hands betray her self-consciousness and this duality makes the picture all the more lifelike. A master draftsman, Lehmann portrays each minute detail to further the sense of verisimilitude to the scene: the contrasting textures of the silks and lace of her dress, the variety of plants growing in the foreground, and the subtle nuances of light as it plays across her alabaster skin. Whereas Lehmann's submission to the Salon of 1842, Flagellation de Jesus-Christ, was a religious subject in keeping with the jury's preference for historic and dramatic subjects, it is significant to note that he chose our picture to be his entry for 1843 to showcase his equal abilities in the field of portraiture.
fig 1 Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Portrait of Mademoiselle Rivire, 1805, Muse du Louvre, Paris.