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Costume and Character in the Age of Ingres

Start Date 9 September 1999
End Date 21 November 1999
Venue Metropolitan Museum of Art
Location New York, USA
Curator Richard Martin
Designer Michael Langley

For the first time in its history, The Costume Institute will present an exhibition ancillary to one of The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s major loan exhibitions of paintings. Costume and Character in the Age of Ingres will be on view in The Costume Institute from September 9 through November 21, 1999 — coinciding with the exhibition Portraits by Ingres: Image of an Epoch in the second-floor Special Exhibitions Galleries.

The exhibition is made possible by Yves Saint Laurent.

Selected entirely from the collection of The Costume Institute, Costume and Character in the Age of Ingres will demonstrate what curator Richard Martin describes as “six decades of fashion in the manner of Ingres, for whom the new styles were an intrinsic part of the epic that was evolving into modem life. Our purpose is not to seek out fatuous look-alikes, but to try to capture the same flourish of fashion that is present in Ingres’s acutely observed, vividly depicted portraits. There is no doubt that this artist, like many before and after him, was a dedicated follower of fashion.” In particular, the exhibition will examine Ingres’s window to fashion: the emphasis on luxurious fabrics, attention to detail, and passion for color. Born in Montauban, the French painter Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780-1867) captivated the 19th century with porcelain-like portraits and sensuous nudes. Praised for his renderings of various textiles, he was meticulous about capturing the textures and foldings of fabrics. His elegant delineation and evocation of soft contours have inspired some of the most exquisite garments in costume design.

Organized in the five galleries of The Costume Institute, the exhibition will feature “Undress,” an intriguing look at undergarments that defined the contours and forms of costume from 1800 to 1870. Beginning with the most intimate garment, the chemise, the corset was added to mold the body into shape. Layers of petticoats and crinoline hoops provided the understructure that completed the desired silhouette.

“The Changing Silhouette” will present an overview of 19th-century silhouettes. “Informal and Formal Daywear” will put on view the diversity of clothing worn by women on social occasions and will demonstrate how clothing defined women’s roles in society. Ingres also paid careful attention to the fashionable male. The exhibition’s “Outerwear” gallery will include an unusual array of the types of outer garments — such as a spencer, bolero, and the pelisse — that are depicted often in Ingres’s portraits. The desire for more variety in outerwear was generated by the proliferation of 19th-century fashion prints.

The final gallery, “Evening,” will feature representations of Ingres’s affinity to fashion — spectacular dresses of the most luxurious fabrics and opulent details. These gowns possess the aura of sensuality found in the artist’s portraiture.

In addition, distinctive accessories such as jewelry, caps, handkerchiefs, eyewear, and fans will be shown, along with beautifully woven cashmere shawls with floral prints. Such 19th-century accessories sent out covert signals to others that are lost to us today.

Costume and Character in the Age of Ingres will offer an extraordinary opportunity to appreciate an artist’s paintings and fashion inspirations within the same institution. “I am very grateful,” said Richard Martin, ” to the imaginative insight and creative challenge offered by Director Philippe de Montebello and by Gary Tinterow in inviting this correlated exhibition. Ingres provides a perfect example of an artist who has wielded opulent costume to create paintings of rich, deep characterization.”

Gary Tinterow, the Engelhard Curator of 19th-Century European Painting at the Metropolitan Museum, is organizing the accompanying exhibition, Portraits by Ingres: Image of an Epoch. Richard Martin continued: “After monarchy, fashion was in the public eye and the bourgeois realm. The six decades of Ingres’s portraits — elegant and keenly described with an unmistakable penchant for fashion — happen to be the time that set the course for modem fashion.” Gallery talks will be available in conjunction with the exhibition.

Portraits by Ingres: Image of an Epoch will be on view from October 5, 1999, through January 2, 2,000. Exhibition design is by Michael Langley, Exhibition Designer, with graphics by Constance Norkin, Graphic Designer, and lighting by Zack Zanolli, Lighting Designer.