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Work Homer Deified, also known as The Apotheosis of Homer

Department of Paintings: French painting

Homer Deified, or The Apotheosis of Homer

© 2006 RMN / Thierry Le Mage

Paintings
French painting

Author(s):
François de Vergnette

Ingres was commissioned to paint this composition with numerous figures to decorate a ceiling in the Musée Charles X in the Louvre, now the Egyptian Rooms. It was taken down in 1855. The work, which does not betray its origin as a ceiling painting, draws heavily on Raphael's Parnassus. It shows a deified Homer receiving homages from the great artists of antiquity and modern times. At his feet, two allegories represent the Iliad and the Odyssey.

The god of classical art and his disciples

The poet Homer is presented as a god, sitting in front of a temple bearing his name on the pediment. He is being crowned with laurels by a Victory. Two women sitting at his feet personify the epics he composed. The woman bearing a sword represents the Iliad, while the woman with the oar represents the Odyssey. The deified poet is receiving homage from forty-six great figures of antiquity and modern times. The figures from antiquity-painted full length and closest to Homer-include on the left the tragic poet Aeschylus holding a roll of parchment and the artist Apelles with his brushes and palette, and on the right the poet Pindar with a lyre and the sculptor Phidias with a hammer. Only two great men of modern times, Dante and Raphael, are included in this group. The other great men of modern times are shown lower in the painting in half-length portraits. Most are artists from the classical period-the century of Louis XIV-such as the writers Racine, Boileau, Molière, Corneille, and La Fontaine, and the artist Nicolas Poussin.

A ceiling painting for the Louvre

Ingres painted this work as a result of a royal commission he received in 1826 to decorate the ceiling of the first room in the Musée Charles X in the Louvre. It took Ingres a year to finish this large painting, and he presented it at the Salon in 1827. His aim was to make it a manifesto for classicism. Since his return to Paris in 1824, he had turned his back on the revolutionary approach to art that had earned him such criticism in his youth, and he had come to be seen as a successor to David, defending the classical tradition against Delacroix. But his deified Homer was not a great success. His next large work, the Martyrdom of Saint Symphorien, now in the cathedral in Autun, was the object of even harsher criticism at the Salon of 1834, particularly by his fellow defenders of the classical tradition. In 1835 a disappointed Ingres left Paris for Rome once more.

A devotion to classicism

The composition of the work is largely classical, in keeping with the subject of the painting, which celebrates classical artists. Ingres did not give his work the vertical perspective favored by Baroque artists, even though the painting was destined for a ceiling. The composition confronts the viewer directly. The figures are arranged symmetrically on either side of Homer, who is thus placed at the apex of a compositional pyramid. Ingres was inspired by Raphael's fresco Parnassus, in the Stanza della Segnatura in the Vatican. However, Ingres's painting is lacking in the fluid grace that characterizes Raphael's work. Ingres seems simply to have juxtaposed a number of famous portraits of great men, such as the Self-Portrait by Poussin, now in the Louvre, copying them with photographic precision. At the same time, the perspective of the work as a whole is flattened, as in the boldest of his earlier works, such as the Grande Odalisque, also in the Louvre. This may reflect Ingres's intention to take the decorative function of the work into account by toning down its three-dimensional effect. The flattening of the reliefs and colors also adds to this impression.

Bibliography

Robert Rosenblum, Ingres, Paris, Cercle d'art, 1968, pp. 130-33.

Technical description

  • Jean-Auguste-Dominique INGRES (Montauban, 1780 - Paris, 1867)

    Homer Deified, or The Apotheosis of Homer

    1827

  • H. 3.86 m; W. 5.12 m

  • Commissioned in 1826

    INV. 5417

  • Paintings

    Denon wing
    1st floor
    Daru
    Room 75

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Additional information about the work

Signed bottom left: "I. INGRES PINGbat"; dated bottom right "ANNO 1827"