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Museum Assignment: Portrait Comparison Between the 17th and 19th Centuries

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The Flemish seventeenth century artist Peter Paul Reubens and the nineteen century French artist Jean Auguste Dominque Ingres had little in common besides their occupation, as both utilized very different styles in their art. Reubens’s work is classified under the Baroque style, a period between 1600 and 1750 as a contrast to the prior perfection of Renaissance art, whereas Ingres’s work is under Neoclassicism, which praised the Greek and Roman classics that inspired the Renaissance artists (Kleiner). Yet the two separate time periods and painting styles that influenced the painters also share small similarites, through visual quality and iconography. Reuben’s portrait of Susanna Fourment and Ingres’s portrait of Françoise Poncelle clearly belong to the specific artistic movements, but some aspects of painting remain timeless, with each artist drawing inspiration from prior work.
Peter Paul Reubens’s paintings were heavily influenced by his studio’s location in Antwerp. The city’s banking industry led to an emphasis upon works that a family could purchase, often within the upper middle class instead of the immensely wealthy. This emphasis allotted more time to be put into portraiture, in place of the large scale church altarpieces or palace paintings, which could be displayed in the family’s homes with more modesty. The Baroque period, a term that comes from the Portugese word “barroco”, or “irregularly shaped pearl” (Kleiner), is known for its bright colors, emphasis on reality’s relationship to fantasy, theatric quality, and dramatics. Many of Reubens’s paintings are allegorical, colorful, and inspired by numerous artists of the past as well as his current time. After the Renaissance period, artists took the classically influ...

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... This painting style emphasized natural human form instead of Smooth finishes replaced thick swirls or dabs of paint to accurately convey the human form, which is shown explicitly in Ingres’s portrait.
Although both pieces are portraits, each portrays the subject in differing manners. The harsh lines and blurred strokes convey a mysterious attachment to Reuben’s portrait, whereas the defined lines and photographic detail within Ingres’s portrait attach a formal connotation. The demand for home based patronage spread from Antwerp in the late sixteen hundreds into the early eighteen hundreds in France, yet what makes a portrait truly exemplary moved with the time shift. Each work reflects the time period while continuing to explore parallels between various artistic styles as well as movements, connecting artists together through their differences and similarities.
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