Jupiter and Thetis Jupiter and Thetis

c. 1807-25/Oil on canvas

82.0 x 65.0 cm

On loan

Where The Gaze Reaches: Masterpieces from the Collecition of Tokyo Fuji Art Museum

Exhibition period:03 23, 2024 (SAT)06 23, 2024 (SUN)

Chengdu Art Museum (Chengdu, China)

Use of Images


This work Jupiter and Thetis is a small version of the same title and same composition as the large-sized masterwork, measuring 327 x 260 cm, that is now in the collection of the Granet Museum in Aix-en-Provence, France. The painting in the Granet Museum is the last ambitious work which young Ingres, who had been studying art in Italy, sent to Paris from the French Academy in Rome. It is known as the painting that indicates the amplitude of the imagination of his youth. He attempted to combine the elements at opposite poles which are a reverence for masculine—sublime male god, dignified pose, and powerful and heavy body—and a reverence for feminine—voluptuous female figure, sensual pose, and soft white skin of a nude—in the single theme. It is said that Ingres himself put a high value on this painting, and after signing this in 1811, he had kept it in his studio until it was purchased by the state in 1834. As this painting is much smaller than the work in the Granet Museum and also there is no mention of this painting in any literatures about Ingres, it could be controversial whether it is a “scaled-down version” of this original masterwork, a “study” for the masterwork, a “record” made after the execution of the masterwork, or a “copy” by his pupils or his workshop. In any case, it seems likely that Ingres started making preparations for an execution of this painting from around 1806, as he wrote in a letter dated December 25, 1806 to his father-in-law Charles-Pierre-Michel Forestier: “I thus thought that when Thetis rises toward Jupiter, she embraces his knees and chin for her son Achilles, that this would be a beautiful subject for a painting and worthy of all my projects. […] I have almost composed it in my head, and I see it . . .” Jupiter is the chief god in Roman mythology (‘Zeus’ in Greek mythology), and the supreme ruler of the gods and human beings. He rules the sky, has beards and is accompanied by an eagle, his sacred bird. He is beneficent but lascivious. Thetis is a sea nymph Nereid and the mother of Achilles, the Greek hero in the Trojan War. According to The Iliad, during the siege of Troy, Achilles sent his mother to Jupiter to make a petition regarding his conflict with Agamemnon, commander-in-chief of the Greek forces. Thetis entreated Jupiter to let her son win the fight on the earth. In this work, with a scepter in his hand, Jupiter seats majestically on his throne on the top of the Mount Olympus towering above the clouds. Thetis is genuflecting in front of Jupiter, stretching out her left hand in supplication to caress Jupiter’s beards with her fingers. Looking at it more closely, her right hand, the toes of her right foot and her breasts are seemingly touching Jupiter's body. On the right side is Jupiter's eagle, while on the left side, his wife Juno (‘Hera’ in Greek mythology) peeped out. Both the eagle and Juno are staring fixedly at Thetis. The seated figure facing front as personified masculine evokes the Napoleon I on His Imperial Throne (Musée de l'Armée, Paris) painted by Ingres in 1806. In fact, we can liken Jupiter to Napoleon, Thetis to Mary Louise, and Juno to Josephine. Anyway, here, we may discover the signs of the two important themes—"recreation of greatness of classical art” and “purified sensual female nudes”—when talking about the subsequent art of Ingres.


Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres1780-1867

List of artworks by the same artist


Exhibiton history
Origin of collections

Provenance: Peut-êre vente E.R. (Emile Richard?), Paris, 14 janvier 1880 (Lugt 39780) Emile Richard aurait été le frère du peintre Gustave Richard, né à Marseille en 1829. Ce dernier vivait à Paris depuis 1843 et il y mourut en 1873. Il faut noter que d’après le catalogue de la vente, après, décès de Gustave Richard en 1880 (Lugt 34132; vente a l’hôtel Drouot, Paris, sale 1.20 juin 1873), ce frère d’Emile Richard s’intéresse à Ingres don’t il possédait quatre dessins (no. 43-46). Selon les informations de l’actuel propriétaire de l’œuvre cette première etude peinte de Jupiter et Thetis aurait été achetée à la vente Emile Richard en 1880 par un expert du nom de Roux. S’agirait-il de Maurice-Gaétan Roux, expert à Marseille (voir Lugt, Marques des collections, suppl., La Haye, 1956. No.1172d)? Selon les informations du propriétaire actuel, l’expert Roux vendit le tableau à un member de sa famille en 1944.


Literature: H. Lapauze, Le Roman d’amour de M. Ingres, 1910, P.73, cahiers Ⅸ et Ⅹ (notes parmi lesquelles existent les deux listes autographes d’ œuvres mentionnées par l’artiste lui-même) H. Lapauze, Ingres, sa vie et son œuvre 1780-1867, 1911, p.75 D. Ternois, catalogue de l’exposition Ingres, Palais, Paris, 1967-1968, no.51, p.93 D. Ternois et E, Camesasca, Tout l’œuvre peint d’Ingres, 1984, pl.2, no.67, a,p.93 P. Condon, M.B Cohn and A. Morgan, catalogue de l’exposition, In pursuit of Perfection : The Art of J.A.D. Ingres, Speed Art Museum, Louisville ; Kentucky and the Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas, 6 déc 1983-5 mai 1984, pp.40-41


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