The Source (Ingres)

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The Source
Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres - The Spring - Google Art Project 2.jpg
Artist Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres
Year 1856
Type oil on canvas
Dimensions 163 cm × 80 cm (64 in × 31 in)
Location Musée d'Orsay, Paris

The Source (French: La Source) is an oil painting on canvas by French neoclassical painter Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres. The work was begun in Florence around 1820 and not completed until 1856, in Paris.[1][2] When Ingres completed The Source, he was seventy-six years old,[3] already famous,[4] and president of the École des Beaux-Arts.[5] The pose of the nude may be compared with that of another by Ingres, the Venus Anadyomene (1848),[6] and is a reimagination of the Aphrodite of Cnidus or Venus Pudica.[5] Two of Ingres' students, painters Paul Baize and Alexandre Desgoffe, helped to create the background and water jar.[1]


The painting depicts a nude standing upright between an opening in the rocks and holding in her hands a pitcher, from which water flows. She thus represents a water source or spring which, in classical literature, is sacred to the Muses and a source of poetic inspiration.[7] She stands between two flowers, with their "vulnerability to males who wish to pluck them",[7] and is framed by ivy, plant of Dionysus the god of disorder, regeneration, and ecstasy.[7] The water she pours out separates her from the viewer, as rivers mark boundaries of which the crossing is symbolically important.[7]


Art historians Frances Fowle and Richard Thomson suggest that there is a "symbolic unity of woman and nature" in The Source, where the flowering plants and water serve as a background which Ingres fills with woman's "secondary attributes".[8]


The first exhibition of The Source was in 1856, the year it was completed.[9] The painting was received enthusiastically.[4] Duchâtel acquired the painting in 1857 for a sum of 25,000 francs. The state assumed title to the painting in 1878 and it passed to the Musée du Louvre. In 1986 it was transferred to the Musée d'Orsay.[1] The painting has been frequently exhibited and widely published.[1][10]

Haldane Macfall in A History of Painting: The French Genius describes The Source as Ingres' "superb nude by which he is chiefly known".[11] Kenneth Clark in his book Feminine Beauty observed how The Source has been described as "the most beautiful figure in French painting."[12] Walter Friedländer in David to Delacroix referred to The Source simply as the most famous of Ingres' paintings.[13]

The model for the painting was the young daughter of Ingres' concierge.[11] In his Confessions of a Young Man, Irish novelist George Moore wrote, with relation to the morality of artistic production, "What care I that the virtue of some sixteen-year-old maid was the price for Ingres' La Source? That the model died of drink and disease in the hospital is nothing when compared with the essential that I should have La Source, that exquisite dream of innocence."[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "La Source". Musée d'Orsay. Retrieved 2 March 2012. 
  2. ^ Houghton Mifflin Company (2003). The Houghton Mifflin dictionary of biography. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. pp. 782–. ISBN 978-0-618-25210-7. 
  3. ^ Arnheim, Rudolf (2004). Art and visual perception: a psychology of the creative eye. University of California Press. p. 152. ISBN 978-0-520-24383-5. 
  4. ^ a b Magi, Giovanna (1999). Grand Louvre and the Musee D'Orsay. Casa Editrice Bonechi. p. 91. ISBN 978-88-7009-780-1. 
  5. ^ a b Baguley, David (2000). Napoleon III and his regime: an extravaganza. LSU Press. pp. 317–. ISBN 978-0-8071-2624-0. 
  6. ^ Geist, Sidney (1988). Interpreting Cézanne. Harvard University Press. p. 93. ISBN 978-0-674-45955-7. 
  7. ^ a b c d Ferber, Michael (2007). A dictionary of literary symbols. Cambridge University Press. pp. 75ff, 80f, 104f, 170ff. ISBN 978-0-521-87042-9. 
  8. ^ Fowle, Francis; Thomson, Richard (2003). Soil and stone: impressionism, urbanism, environment. Ashgate Publishing. p. 23. ISBN 978-0-7546-3685-4. 
  9. ^ Stoddart, David Michael (1990). The scented ape: the biology and culture of human odour. Cambridge University Press. p. 131. ISBN 978-0-521-39561-8. 
  10. ^ Fried, Michael (1998). Manet's modernism, or, The face of painting in the 1860s. University of Chicago Press. p. 518. ISBN 978-0-226-26217-8. 
  11. ^ a b Macfall, Haldane (August 2004). A History of Painting: The French Genius (vol. 6). Kessinger Publishing. p. 275. ISBN 978-1-4179-4511-5. 
  12. ^ Henry A. Strobel (1999). Reflections: personal essays. Henry Strobel Publisher. p. 62. ISBN 978-1-892210-01-2. 
  13. ^ Friedländer, Walter F. (1952). David to Delacroix. Harvard University Press. p. 87. ISBN 978-0-674-19401-4. 
  14. ^ Barrett, Cyril (1982). "The Morality of Artistic Production". The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism (Wiley-Blackwell) 41 (2): 137–144.