About this artwork

Ossian, "the Homer of the North", was the creation of the Scottish author James Macpherson, though his poems were originally claimed by Macpherson to be "Fragments of Ancient Poetry". This drawing is based on Ingres’s oval painting of Ossian commissioned by Napoleon in 1811 for his bedroom in the Palazzo di Monte Cavallo on the Quirinal in Rome (it is now in the Musée Ingres, Montauban). The drawing, dedicated to the architect Lebas, was produced much later, perhaps when Ingres and Lebas were elected to the Institut de France.

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres

Ingres was a pupil of the neoclassical painter Jacques-Louis David. In 1801 he won the Prix de Rome, and remained in Italy for eighteen years. Ingres adored everything that Italy had to offer, from the masterpieces of the Renaissance to the numerous examples of antique art. In Rome, he studied at the French Academy (of which he later became Director) and worked on numerous commissions, from great classicizing works for Napoleon to small portraits of French visitors. He returned to Paris in the 1820s, where his work was celebrated by critics for its polished, elegant style. Ingres’s work was embedded in the classical tradition, and displayed his passionate belief in the supremacy of line over colour. He enjoyed an immensely successful career, and managed a thriving studio with many pupils.