Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, a student of David, promulgated his master's neoclassical aesthetic throughout his long and very successful career. Ingres espoused the supremacy of line over color, the study of antique sculpture, and the value of drawing after the live model, principles he perfected in his expressive use of line to define form.
Madame Moitessier, the daughter of a wealthy government official and wife of a lace merchant, is shown in three-quarter length against a magenta damask background. She wears a black velvet evening dress with a white lace band at the top which is overlaid with a black lace shawl. The black dress and her skin offset her glistening jewels. The surface is finely finished, and the brushstroke almost invisible.
Ingres has simplified Madame Moitessier's features, recalling a Greco-Roman ideal. Her hairstyle and the decorative halo of roses further accentuate the fact that her face is perfectly oval and her features symmetrical. The sitter's body is rather flat, thus emphasizing that the figure-ground relationship is a play between lines and shapes. Ingres, by exploiting the curvilinear possibilities of the female form, has transformed Madame Moitessier into a monumental vision of ideal beauty.