45.1 x 32.4 cm (17 3/4 x 12 3/4 inches)
Purchased with funds from the Bequest of Maria Dasdagulian in honor of Joseph Fazzano
This combined image of the head of a man, hands clasped in prayer, and portions of a monk’s robe and chin offers keen insights into the working methods of the history and portrait painter J.A.D. Ingres. While working in Rome in 1817, Ingres received a commission for a multi-figural composition depicting Christ Offering Saint Peter the Keys to Paradise, an altar panel to be installed in the Church of Trinità dei Monti. He made numerous preparatory drawings and oil sketches of the figures, including portrait studies for the heads of saints. He commonly used these small-format canvases to develop gestures and facial expressions, not hesitating to work on more than one subject on a single support. In this composite study, only the praying hands – viewed here upside down – relate directly to the altarpiece, as they are identical to those of the Apostle John. The powerful male head may have served the project as a study of rapt expression. Distinct from these subjects, the odd sliver of a monk’s face and cowl may be a study for a separate composition.