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Work Louis-François Bertin

Department of Paintings: French painting

Portrait of Louis-François Bertin, called Bertin the Elder (1766-1841), founder and director of the Journal des Débats politiques et littéraires

© 2010 Musée du Louvre / Angèle Dequier

French painting

De Vergnette François

The character and social status of Louis-François Bertin, who founded the Journal des Débats and backed Louis-Philippe, come to the fore in this painting. Ingres created the archetype of the triumphant bourgeoisie of the 1830s. This is the most realistic portrait he ever painted; the messy-haired sitter looks as though he has just been interrupted while in mid-conservation. This painting is also striking because of the amazingly sharp details.

A press baron

A stocky, gray-haired man of about 60 sits gazing intensely at the viewer. His facial expression, casual pose, and hands resting on his knees radiate a barely contained energy; he looks poised to spring into action. This portrait perfectly reflects the character and social status of Louis-François Bertin (1766-1841), journalist, businessman, and owner of the Journal des Débats. He backed the idea of a constitutional monarchy, which landed him in jail under the First Empire, and opposed the regime of Charles X. When Ingres painted this portrait, during the July Monarchy, Bertin's newspaper, which was read by the liberal bourgeoisie, supported the government of Louis-Philippe, whom he had helped to put on the throne.

"The Buddha of the bourgeoisie"

Ingres painted this portrait in 1832 during his Paris period, which lasted from 1824 to 1834. The revolutionary of 1806 was henceforth deemed David's successor, the defender of tradition against Delacroix and the Romantics. This was when the artist produced his painting manifestos, such as The Apotheosis of Homer (Louvre), but only a few portraits; he did most of them during other periods in his life. At the Salon of 1833, Ingres exhibited this picture next to an older portrait, Madame Duvauçay (1807, Chantilly, Musée Condé), to show how his style had evolved. The sitter's pose drew barbs from some critics, who found it ridiculous and vulgar. Later, Bertin's daughter wrote, "My father looked like a great lord; Ingres turned him into a fat farmer." This work, which is the most famous male portrait Ingres painted, is often considered the embodiment of a social class. Indeed, Édouard Manet described Bertin as "the Buddha of the self-satisfied, well-to-do, triumphant bourgeoisie."

Photographic truthfulness

This is probably Ingres's most realistic painting. Unlike his other portraits, such as Caroline Rivière (Louvre), the sitter's pose is not based on older pictures or Raphael's portraits. The artist captured Bertin as he observed him in mid-conversation at home one day. Ingres achieved painstakingly crisp precision in the details, the imperfections of the face, and the tousled hair; the reflection of a window on one of the chair's arms recalls the art of Jan Van Eyck. This work does not have the abstract contours of La Grande Odalisque (Louvre), but the malleable anatomy that the artist enjoyed depicting is in evidence, and his fondness for curves can be seen in Bertin's arm and the chair's backrest. Lastly, Ingres compressed the painting's space, as he often did.


Rosenblum Robert, Ingres, Paris, Cercle d'art, 1968, pp. 134-137.Toussaint Hélène, Les Portraits d'Ingres, Paris, Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 1985, pp. 71-75.Ternois Daniel, Monsieur Bertin, Collection "Solo", Paris, Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 1998.Carrington Shelton Andrew, in Portraits by Ingres. Image of an epoch, catalogue d'exposition, New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, London, The National Gallery, 1999, pp. 300-307.

Technical description

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

    Portrait of Louis-François Bertin, called Bertin the Elder (1766-1841), founder and director of the Journal des Débats politiques et littéraires

    1832Salon of 1833

  • Oil on canvas

    H. 1.16 m; W. 0.95 m

  • Acquired from the model's heirs, in 1897 , 1897

    R.F. 1071

  • Paintings

    Sully wing
    2nd floor
    Room 940

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Additional information about the work

Signed and dated in the upper left-hand corner: "J. INGRES PINXIT. / 1832."