Journal of Romance Studies

‘It isn’t he!’: Ingres’s Paganini and Delacroix’s parody

Journal of Romance Studies (2011), 11, (2), 35–59.

Abstract

This article offers the first in-depth comparison of two nineteenth-century French portraits of the Italian virtuoso violinist and composer Niccolò Paganini (1782–1840): the pencil portrait executed in Rome in 1819 by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres (1780–1867); and the portrait in oils by Eugène Delacroix (1798–1863), painted in Paris circa 1831 after Paganini’s debut at the Opéra. Referring to and contesting a number of previous critical responses, and making reference in particular to Delacroix’s Journal and the art criticism of Charles Baudelaire, the article presents the new thesis that Delacroix’s portrait of Paganini was intended as a parodic reply to Ingres’s ‘beautified’ image, particularly in its use of features of style associated with the Romantic avant-garde: its merging of the grotesque and the comic, its use of exaggeration and distortion, and its employment of an abstract and poetic rendition of Paganini which aimed to evoke not just the physiognomy but also the personality of the violinist and the characteristics of his playing for which he was most renowned.

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Suvini-Hand, Vivienne