Sunday, February 27, 2005

Grand Odalisque

Painted by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, one of my favorite painters of the Neoclassical Period. This nude was painted in 1814 for Napoleon's sister, Queen Caroline Murat. Ingres' nude is hardly intimate, the eroticism here emerging slowly from the reserve and the questioning, assessing glance of the naked woman. This is a tradition that goes back to Giorgione and Titian, but Ingres has painted a living woman and not an allegory of Venus. Nevertheless, the realistic intimacy is lessened by setting the scene in the distant world of the Orient.

For many in the West, the idea of the harem with its available or exploited women trapped in their own closed world was as much proof of the fallen or primitive state of the East as was its supposed savagery. But it was also infinitely titillating. Ingres's picture is more than this, however. A sense of loss was inevitably embodied in French perceptions of the East after their defeat in Egypt, and it was perhaps because it sublimated unattainable desires that the theme of the Oriental nude, bather or harem girl gained such a haunting appeal. Ingres is remarkable for combining a frank allure with a chilling perfection of flesh. He picks up discreet hints of the harem — a turban here, a fan there — from Oriental artifacts and miniatures in the collections of Gros and Denon. They serve to locate his nude, who otherwise could really belong anywhere, in a sensuous Orient of the imagination. To Ingres, the Orient was a place of mystery and fascination. This painting embodies this.


  1. thanks for the advice on my blog about not letting the stuff go over the page, i realised it was some long links that did it :) This picture reminds me of the essay i have to do soon on Neoclassicalism, though I am going to do it on Delacroix

  2. No problem. I encountered the same problem and it took me almost an hour to figure it out. Hopefully it saved you some time. =)
    Your page is good. I love Delacroix too. I studied in Paris and took Art History where half my class was in the museum, looking at the pieces in its true form. Amazing, the Delacroixs =) Good luck.

  3. wow that must have been awesome studying it in Paris!!! Im from Australia so I don't get to see much of the great masters (theres a few here and occassionally they come out here but not often)


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