Art: The Faces of an Epoch

Ingres's portraits captured the 19th century upper crust with uncanny precision, brio and power

You can't look at great portraits today without a certain nostalgia. The painted portrait is a form that, like blank-verse drama in the theater or the caryatid in architecture, would seem to be on its last legs. Indeed, with few exceptions, it has no legs and seems unlikely to grow new ones. Photography took them away. But older portraits have hardly lost their magic and their grip on the imagination. This is why "Portraits by Ingres: Image of an Epoch," which is on view (through April 25) at the National Gallery in London, and will be seen later this year at...

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