Several possible titles have been suggested:
Copy after Ingres' 'Roger délivrant Angélique' is the generally accepted title.
A figure composition in vertical format. It shows a full-length standing nude woman, chained at upper right to a rock, with waves around her feet, against a dark background.
A stormy coast!
Angélique (Angelica) is a princess in the unfinished epic poem Orlando innamorato by Matteo Maria Boiardo, and in the saga's continuation, Orlando furioso by Ludovico Ariosto, as well as in later works based on these stories. The narratives are part of a cycle of legendary historical stories based on the adventures of Charlemagne and his paladins.
Angelica is the daughter of the king of Cathay. In Orlando furioso, she is sought throughout the world by the cousins Orlando (Roland), Rinaldo (Rinaud), and other knights. Eventually, naked and chained to a rock in the sea, she is offered as a sacrifice to a sea monster (just as in the story of Perseus and Andromeda). She is rescued by the African knight Ruggiero (which is the scene depicted by Ingres), who gives her a ring of invisibility. When she is pursued by the maddened Orlando, she uses the ring and vanishes. Finally she falls for an ordinary soldier, the Moor Medoro, and they return to Cathay. Orlando eventually recovers his senses with the help of his cousin Astolpho.
Ingres' painting inspired both poetry and paintings. Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882) wrote a sonnet, Ruggiero and Angelica ('Last Visit to the Luxembourg. Roger Rescuing Angelica; by Ingres') which was originally sent to William Michael Rossetti (1829-1919) in 1849, and was published by Ellis & White, London, 1881. 7
Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas (1834-1917) copied Ingres' Roger délivrant Angélique twice, once in 1855 when it was exhibited in the Exposition Universelle in Paris, and again in 1859 at the Musée du Luxembourg. 8 Later Degas acquired a drawing for the oil and a small oil version of the same composition by Ingres, which was bought at the sale of Degas' estate for the National Gallery, London. 9 Jean-Désiré-Gustave Courbet (1819-1877) also made copies of Ingres' original work., and about 1850 he re-used a strip of canvas from his copy after Ingres' Roger délivrant Angélique to stitch together a canvas for a self-portrait, which is now in the Musée des Beaux-Arts et d'Archéologie, Besançon. 10
In 1867 Whistler wrote a passionate letter to Ignace-Henri-Jean-Théodore Fantin-Latour (1836-1904) saying that he wished he had been a pupil of Ingres:
'Ah! que n'ai-je été un éleve de Ingres! - Je ne dis point ceci par rhapsodie devant ses tableaux - Je ne les aime que mediocrement - Je trouve plusieurs de ses toiles que nous avons vu ensemble d'un style bien questionable - pas du tout Grec comme on veut le dire - mais bien vicieusement Francais!
Je sens qu'il y a bien plus loin à aller! de choses bien plus belles à faire - Mais je repete que n'ai-je été son éleve! Quel maitre qu'il aurait été - Comme il nous aurait sainement conduit - le dessin! pardieu! la couleur - c'est vrai c'est le vice! certainement qu'elle peut être et a le droit d'être une des plus belles vertus - bien tenu avec main forte - bien guidée par son maitre le dessin - la couleur alors est ... une fille splendide avec un époux digne d'elle - son amant mais aussi son maitre, ... et le resultat se voit dans toutes les belles choses produitent par leur union!' 11
Translated, this reads:
'Oh! how I wish I had been a pupil of Ingres! I don't say that because I go into raptures in front of his pictures - I only like them up to a point - I think that many of his canvases that we saw together are in very questionable style - not at all Greek as people call them - but very pervertedly French!
I feel there's much further to go! much more beautiful things to do - But I repeat I wish I had been his pupil! What a master he would have been - How soundly he would have guided us - drawing! my God! colour - it's really a vice! certainly it can be and has the right to be one of the most beautiful virtues - if directed by a strong hand - well guided by its master drawing - colour is then … a splendid woman with a spouse worthy of her - her lover but also her master, … and the result is to be seen in all the beautiful things produced by their union!'
However, by 1893, Whistler's views had changed somewhat, and he objected to the praise of Ingres by George Moore (1852-1933), who had written in The Speaker of 16 September 1893:
'There is as much mystery in Ingres' line as in Rembrandt's light and shade. The arms and wrists and hands of the lady seated among the blue cushions in the Louvre are as illusive as any one of Mr. Whistler's "Nocturnes". The beautiful "Andromeda", head and throat leaned back almost out of nature, ... how rare the simplifications, those arms, that body, the straight flanks and slender leg advancing, - are made of lines simple and beautiful as those which in the Venus of Milo realise the architectural beauty of woman. … But the pure, unconscious love of form, inherited from the Greeks, sometimes turned to passion in Ingres: not in "La Source", she is wholly Greek; but in the beautiful sinuous back of the odalisque we perceive some of the exasperation of nerves which betrays our century.' 12
Three months later Whistler responded:
'What possessed you to do that pas seul of quite carnal & uncalled for excitement before Ingres "Source"? - a short legged knobbly kneed ill begotten wench! - Why now draw attention to this unholy sort of Bank holiday passion for her? - so … out of date too, even for a pioneer - and why call her "Greek"! so near the Goddess on the staircase.' 13
By 'Goddess' Whistler meant the 'Venus de Milo', a statue that he had long admired.
3: C. L. Freer Diaries, Bk 12, Freer Gallery Archives.
4: Macbeth Gallery records, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. International Exhibition of Modern Art, Association of American Paintings and Sculpture, Armory of the 69th Infantry, New York, 1913 (cat. no. 657).
5: Loan Exhibition, National Arts Club, New York, 1935.
Last updated: 25th November 2020 by Margaret