Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Sir John Hay and his sister Mary, later Mrs George Forbes, a pencil drawing

Rome, Italy, AD 1816

A sketch from Ingres' Rome period

Ingres (1780-1867) won the Prix de Rome, a prestigious travel bursary, in 1801, but lack of funding from the French Government delayed his departure until 1807. In the intervening period, Ingres established a considerable reputation for his portraits.

On arrival in Rome, he devoted himself to history paintings. He determined to remain in Italy until he could be sure of a triumphant return to Paris. As a result of Napoleon's defeat in 1815, Ingres was cut off from potential patrons, and he turned to again to portraiture to support himself. Although he disliked the drudgery of such commissioned work, Ingres drew many beautiful and intimate pencil portraits of his friends, and this style of portrait became popular with paying customers.

In 1816, Ingres was commissioned by George Forbes, a Scottish tourist, to draw him with his fiancée Mary Hay (1790-1877). Ingres developed a composition appropriate to a betrothal, but Forbes was called away from Rome before the drawing could be completed. Mary's brother, Sir John Hay (1788-1838), stood in for Forbes, but Ingres refused to alter the composition. The couple wear matching flowers, and Mary's engagement ring is heavily drawn. Mary and George were married in 1819, but Forbes was displeased with the drawing, and had it reproduced photographically with the figure of his brother-in-law removed.

Find in the collection online

More information


J. Rowlands, Master drawings and watercolou (London, The British Museum Press, 1984)

G. Tinterow and P. Conisbee (eds.), Portraits by Ingres: images of (New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1999)


Height: 291.000 mm
Width: 219.000 mm

Museum number

PD 1938-8-17-1


Gift of the National Art Collections Fund


Find in the collection online

Search highlights

There are over 4,000 highlight objects to explore