Portrait of a Woman, 1850
oil on canvas
99.4 x 76.3 cm oval
National Gallery of Canada (no. 18937)
The July Monarchy saw the emergence of a wealthy middle class eager for the social status conveyed by the portrait, creating a substantial market for the genre. By 1844 portrait painting accounted for as much as a third of the entries at the annual Salon. In "Portrait of a Woman", which dates from the early years of Gérôme's career, the artist seems concerned with accuracy of representation, but there has been no attempt to render the sitter's sullen features in a more appealing way. Gérôme has been referred to as an "academic Realist" whose obsession with finish placed him at odds with Courbet and the later Impressionists, recalling instead the highly finished portraits of Ingres, who was in vogue at the time.