Appropriation as education

In my master’s thesis paper, I refer repeatedly to the apprenticeship model that dominates art instruction to this day.  The paper (coming soon to this site) does not include examples of how this can work, so this post is something of a bonus feature.

For Power Dressing, one of my most recent paper doll paintings, I appropriated the Joan of Arc from Jean-August-Dominique Ingres’ Joan of Arc at the Coronation of Charles VII.

Power Dressing (detail), watercolor, 2014

Power Dressing (detail), watercolor, 2014

In case Ingres’ oeuvre isn’t etched into your memory, here’s the painting from which I appropriated:

Jeanne d'Arc au sacre du roi Charles VII, dans la cathedrale de Reims (1854)Jean August Dominique Ingres, Jeanne d’Arc au sacre du roi Charles VII , dans la cathédral de Reims (Joan of Arc at the Coronation of Charles VII), 1854 CE, Musée du Louvre

Now, here’s where appropriation becomes a learning tool.  More precisely, this is a moment when copying spurs a teachable moment.  I was walking through the Philadelphia Museum of Art last month and spotted this:


Juan and Miguel Ximénez, The Archangel Michael from a Spanish altarpiece, c. 1500-1503 CE, Philadelphia Museum of Art

Every other time I looked at this panel, I gawked at the three-dimensional aspects (because that was my own painting preoccupation until last year). This time, however, my eye caught on the armor.

juan ximenez_panel from altarpiece_michael_detail_pma.jpgNow look again at the armor Ingres painted on Joan of Arc. Jeanne d'Arc au sacre du roi Charles VII, dans la cathedrale de Reims (1854)

I couldn’t get a good photo of the knee in the Ximénez panel, so you’ll have to trust me that it’s eerily similar to the Ingres armor.  (I’m not going to be that irresponsible/selfish person who uses the flash in art museums, sorry.)

I don’t know for certain whether Ingres was appropriating from Ximénez.  Perhaps this is an extremely common style of armor.  It does, however, make me remember a fantastic book I read several years ago about the undeniable (but often overlooked) trend of French masters to borrow heavily from the Spanish.


That book was Manet/Velásquez: The French Taste for Spanish Painting, put out by the Metropolitan Museum of Art to accompany a show of the same theme.  It’s a fantastic introduction to the links between French and Spanish painting.  (Sadly, I haven’t had a compelling excuse to add a copy to my book collection.  Budgets, you know.)

So, to recap: years after reading a book about the Spanish influence on French painting, I noticed similar painted armor in a pair of French and Spanish paintings.  I can’t say yet whether what I noticed was an example that corresponds with the Manet/Velásquez book.  I can, however, guarantee that I would never have noticed the connection had I not spent hours laboriously appropriating from Ingres’ painting.

I’m not quite sure how to solve this mystery, but it’s an interesting one.  It makes me wish I could afford another degree (in art history this time).

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