The portrait. A single person immortalized forever on canvas. At first glance, you only see the subject. With a more analytical eye, though, you not only see the image but you begin to hear the voice of the painter and of his time. This is what I hope to do, to feel and understand the mind of the painter Ingres when he painted Louis-Francois Bertin and Reynolds when he painted General John Burgoyne. In the portrait of Bertin, Ingres has captured on canvas a man who has never been pampered in his life. You feel by looking at him that this is a man who has worked for everything that he has ever received in his life. Why do you feel this, though? Let’s begin with the colors chosen for this piece.
The colors revolve around brown, giving you the impression of something very down to earth. The background of the painting is basically one solid brown. Bertin occupies the whole bottom section of the painting, with nothing of his body going above three-fourths of the canvas. He is the ground, below even the earth tones of the background.He has on a black suit, brown vest, and white shirt, as well. These colors working together allow you to make certain assumptions about him. He looks like a working man, which he was. “Louis-Francois Bertin (1766-1841), was one of the great leaders of the French upper middle class, a businessman and a journalist” (Rosenblum, 134). This would explain the one striking color in the piece, the red.
Bertin is sitting on a red cushion, red being a color classically associated with royalty. This could be a commentary on Bertin’s life on a whole. His journal, the Journal des Debats was a strong supporter of liberal journalism in a time when France, the monarchs from the self proclaimed Napoleon Bonaparte to King Charles X, wanted the return of an absolute monarch in France. The people were not happy with this and Bertin’s newspaper spread this displeasure. Bertin was even exiled for a period of time by Napoleon Bonaparte for his royalist views. He wanted a constitutional monarch set up. But, after the fall of Bonaparte, Bertin returned and continued his life, prospering. Monet even called this portrait “the Buddha of bourgeoisie” (Rosenblum, 134). This portrait should be looked upon as the pinnacle image of the bourgeoisie of the time.