The Source Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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The Source, translated from the word for Spring, was completed by Neoclassical painter Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres in 1856, having been started as early as 1820.

We do know that Ingres paid most attention to the female nude, whilst several members of his studio tackled the background elements of the scene, as well as the ceramic jar from where water is poured by the young woman. It is believed that this composition was a direct re-invention by the artist of Aphrodite of Cnidus or Venus Pudica. The style and content found in this portrait will actually remind many of William-Adolphe Bouguereau, a famous French academic artist. Specifically, The Birth of Venus, Baigneuse and Evening Mood are all noticeably similar. Ingres's Neo-Classicist style was clearly well suited to these types of inspirations.

This particular piece is owned by the Musée d'Orsay, Paris, France, whereas the Louvre (also in Paris) holds perhaps the best collection of Ingres paintings. French galleries and musems have made a conscious effort over the years to retain as many key works by their artists as possible. That said, many paintings by the likes of Delacroix, Ingres and Courbet can also be found in the United States, UK and elsewhere in Europe. The Source is considered by some to be one of this artist's best paintings, and certainly ranks amongst the finest of his many portraits. The model who posed for the painting was a daughter of a colleague of Ingres, and is believed to have been sixteen years of age at the time.

Many have claimed that this scene is intended to remind us of the symbolic connection between nature and the female gender. We see an innocent young maiden surrounded by running water and flowering plants. It is a connection that seems completely plausible, and is also something that famous artists have also covered in their careers. The Source was purchased by a private buyer just a year after it was first exhibited and eventually made it's way to the Musée d'Orsay, via the Louvre. Paris remains an exceptional destination for anyone looking to learn more about French art and also European art more generally.