New York (February 6, 2023)—One of the most celebrated paintings in The Frick Collection, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres’s Comtesse d’Haussonville, has inspired a new book of short stories to be published next month by Rizzoli Electa in association with the Frick. The stories in Regarding Ingres: Fourteen Short Stories were written by talented graduate students in New York University’s Creative Writing Program. Best-selling author and NYU professor Darin Strauss served as their faculty advisor and contributed the book’s introduction.
Comments Xavier F. Salomon, Deputy Director and Peter Jay Sharp Chief Curator of the Frick, “We are so proud to welcome fresh perspectives on works in our collection, and this collaboration with emerging fiction writers from NYU has been a deeply rewarding project. This collection of stories is sure to bring renewed attention to a particularly beloved work in our holdings.” Adds Strauss, “It’s thrilling to see the great work of an Old Master reinterpreted in adventurous new work by young writers.”
Both Ingres’s painting and the stories take their inspiration from Louise, Princesse de Broglie, Comtesse d’Haussonville, who came of age in an aristocratic and highly educated family and had the unique distinction of being the daughter, sister, spouse, and mother of four members of the French Academy. She was herself an author, penning multiple biographies—including ones of Lord Byron and the Irish revolutionary Robert Emmet—and was married to Joseph de Cléron, a diplomat, historian, and writer. Her maternal grandmother, Madame de Staël, was a celebrated Romantic novelist and political theorist.
In the portrait, Ingres presents the countess as if she has just returned home from a night at the opera. He strategically arranges her luxurious effects—opera glasses, shawl, visiting cards, gold-and-turquoise jewelry—to capture one moment from a cultured, privileged life. These objects and other details serve as the starting point for the fourteen stories, which range from a gothic tale to a mythologized afterlife to a present-day ghost story. They transport the countess—and the reader—to disparate places: Poland, Brazil, the Amalfi Coast, New York City, and a heaven populated solely by Black people.
Over the years, the Frick has inspired a number of literary responses, from the allusion to Rembrandt’s Polish Rider in Frank O’Hara’s poem “Having a Coke with You” to references to Vermeer’s Girl Interrupted at Her Music in Susanna Kaysen’s memoir Girl, Interrupted to Fiona Davis’s historical novel The Magnolia Palace. Looking to explore a single work of art through a new collection of fiction, Michaelyn Mitchell, the Frick’s Editor in Chief, conceived Regarding Ingres as something of a follow-up to The Sleeve Should Be Illegal & Other Reflections on Art at the Frick (2021), an anthology of personal musings by cultural luminaries. In October 2021, students from Strauss’s Craft of Fiction class visited Frick Madison for an after-hours encounter with Ingres’s portrait and an illuminating curatorial presentation; they submitted their stories at semester’s end, three months later.
The stories are written by Mathis Clément, Najee Fareed, Nina Ferraz, Omer Friedlander, Amir Hall, Anushka Joshi, Christopher Linnix, Madeline McFarland, Jonathan Perry, Isabelle Philippe, Eric Rubeo, Erin Townsend, Devon Walker-Figueroa, and Alanna Weissman.
An event celebrating the book’s publication will be held at NYU’s Washington Square campus on Friday, March 31, at 5:00 p.m., hosted by Strauss and featuring several of the contributing writers. Admission is free, but RSVP is required.