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ngres’ father came from Toulouse. Little more than three miles separate Toulouse from Montauban, but the chain of little hills which throws off, to the left, the river Garonne, and to the right the Tarn and the Aveyron, serves as the dividing line of two profoundly different regions and races. In contrast with the sterile and rocky regions of the North, the plains of Languedoc, with their great river and verdant meadows, seem a land of joy and enchantment. It was at Toulouse, with its courts of love, its floral fêtes, its contests of song and poetry, that Ingres’ father was born. If we may judge from the portrait which Ingres painted of him (it is preserved at the Museum of Montauban), his father must have been an uncommon man. As we see him in this portrait he has a fine forehead, with big black eyes, and a look full of frankness and penetration. The evidence of this portrait is confirmed by the following letter, written by Ingres towards the end of his life, to a gentleman who had asked him for information about his father:—
“Sir,—Jean-Marie-Joseph Ingres was born at Toulouse (in 1734): his father, whom I saw in my childhood, was a master tailor; he lived to a great age. My father when he was very young entered the Academy of Toulouse. He had as master, I believe, M. Lucas, a celebrated sculptor, a professor of the said Academy. Later he went to Marseille, then settled at Montauban and married my mother, Anne Moulet, on 12th August 1777. He was very much loved and appreciated by the leading families of the city and by Mgr. de Breteuil, the Bishop of Montauban, of whom he made a large medallion in profile. This bishop employed my father a great deal at his palace and in his country house, situated near the city.
“My father was born with a rare genius for the fine arts. I say the fine arts because he executed painting, sculpture, and even architecture with success. I saw him construct an important building in our principal street.
“If M. Ingres had had the same advantages which he gave his son, of going to Paris to study under the greatest of our masters, he would have been the first artist of his time. My father, who drew perfectly, painted also in miniature. He also painted views of the country from nature….
“Nothing came amiss to him. In sculpture his work ranged from the sphinxes and figures of abbés reading, which were placed in gardens, to the colossal statues of Liberty which he was forced to improvise in our temples for the Republican fêtes. He made with the greatest facility ornaments of all kinds, with which he decorated most tastefully the buildings of his time…. Finally, he attracted everybody by his lovable character, his goodness, his eminently artistic tastes. Every one was anxious to enjoy his society.
“He often went to Toulouse, his native place, to renew his strength, so to speak, in that large and beautiful city, almost as rich then in monuments of art as Rome, which it greatly resembles. He loved to find himself again with the friends of his youth, all distinguished artists. He took me often with him in these short journeys.
“Without being a musician, my father adored music, and sang very well with a tenor voice. He gave me his taste for music and made me learn to play the violin. I succeeded well enough with it to be admitted into the orchestra of the Grand Theatre of Toulouse, where I played a concerto of Viotti with success….”
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