I don’t look like this, yet in some crazy way this is my portrait. I made this whimsical pen drawing after Ingres’s magnificient Portrait of Mme Moitessier that lives in the National Gallery, London. I saw the painting when it was loaned to the National Gallery of Art in Washington for an Ingres exhibit a few years ago, but made this drawing from a reproduction. While searching the net for an image of the painting to show readers, I also found this surprising appearance of the grand lady. (She gets around more than I supposed!) Actually the real painting is much larger than the reproduction of her that gazes out upon the pedestrians. The real MacCoy measures 120 x 92.1 cm (about 60 x 38 inches). Some of the real Mme Moitessier’s story is available here.
I realize that lots of people care about celebrities. There wouldn’t be celebrities, I mean, such category of persons would not exist, were there not a “demand” for them. It’s not a sentiment that I share. Of course, I can identify some of the currently famous actresses of the present because like everyone I enjoy eating, and consequently find myself shopping fairly regularly for groceries. And the ubiquitous check out tabloids stare out at you and greet everyone and update the world of the latest misadventures of the famous “beautiful people.”
Well, that kind of thing holds no appeal for me. Most of the famously photographed people could arrive at my doorstep, and finding them outside their grocery store check-out line context, I wouldn’t know who they are. But — if Mme Moitessier ever showed up…. Holy cow! Wouldn’t that be the day! I’d certainly recognize her. And she’d be a stand out in any group wearing the fabulous dress she wears in Ingres’s portrait.
Of course, Mme Moitessier is unfortunately quite long dead. Moreover, she probably did not thoroughly resemble the woman in her picture. Or let’s just say, it was mighty convenient of her to happen to look so much like the Roman fresco goddess that Ingres worshipped, into whose pose Ingres put her. The dress may be partly Ingres’s invention. So, one might as well expect a fictional character to arrive at one’s door. The odds that Britney Spears’s car would break down in front of the house, and she require the use of some of our wrenches and other car tools is far more likely than that anyone vaguely resembling Mme Moitessier should arrive. And, really, it’s a shame.
[Top of the post: Me as Mme Moitessier, sort of… by Aletha Kuschan]