The Apotheosis of Homer (Ingres)  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Apotheosis of Homer[1]

The Apotheosis of Homer is a grand 1827 painting by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, now exhibited at the Louvre as INV 5417.


A state commission to decorate a ceiling of the musée Charles X at the Louvre (now the ancient Egyptian galleries), it formed part of a renovation project commissioned by Charles X to have himself remembered in the grand tradition of Bourbon building works at the Louvre. Ingres worked on this painting in the most minute fashion - over 100 drawings for it survive, in which he can be seen making the composition and the details more and more precise. The composition is a symmetrical grouping centred in a classical way in front of an ancient Greek temple - its catalogue entry at the time of its first exhibition describes it as "Homer receiving homage from all the great men of Greece, Rome and modern times. The Universe crowns him, Herodotus burns incense sit at his feet."

The drawings also witness to a high level of precision, whilst the final painting's colours are very fresh and clear, giving the impression of fresco. Ingres's level of research can be seen in the painting's portrait of Nicolas Poussin, which is directly copied from Poussin's 1650 self-portrait now in the Louvre. Ingres wished to compete with Raphael through this painting (it is strongly inspired by the Italian artist's Parnassus) and Raphael is to be seen top left (in black and white Renaissance dress), being led by Apelles (in a blue cloak). Other figures shown include Dante is also shown being led by Virgil as in the former's Divine Comedy (extreme left, behind Poussin) and Molière (right, by the feet of the personification of the Odyssey). In the large number of figures it gathers, indeed, it is a kind of classical confession of faith.

It is highly successful in its genre, though leaves an impression of coldness, an impression which was reinforced at the time of its production by the exhibition of Delacroix's The Death of Sardanapulus at the same year's Paris Salon. Ingres had been considered revolutionary early in his career, but this contrast now faced off a Romantic renewal under Delacroix against the purest classical tradition as shown by Ingres. The Apotheosis of Homer was taken down from its initial site in 1855 and replaced later that year with a copy by Paul and Raymond Balze (in collaboration with Michel Dumas).

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