ingres odalisque

Ingres odalisque
• Portrait of Madame Moitessier (1856) by J.A.D. Ingres.

For an interpretation of other pictures from the 19th and 20th centuries, see: Analysis of Modern Paintings (1800-2000).

Ingres odalisque
Here a languid nude is set in a sumptuous interior. At first glance this nude seems to follow in the tradition of the Great Venetian masters, see for instance, Titian’s Venus of Urbino of 1538. But upon closer examination, it becomes clear that this is no classical setting.
Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker provide a description, historical perspective, and analysis of Ingres’s La Grande Odalisque.

Ingres odalisque
The painting was commissioned by Napoleon’s sister, Queen Caroline Murat of Naples, [1] and finished in 1814. [2] Ingres drew upon works such as Dresden Venus by Giorgione, and Titian’s Venus of Urbino as inspiration for his reclining nude figure, though the actual pose of a reclining figure looking back over her shoulder is directly drawn from the 1800 Portrait of Madame Récamier by Jacques-Louis David.
Another interpretation of this painting suggests that since the duty of some concubines was merely to satisfy the carnal pleasures of the sultan, this elongation of her pelvic area may have been a symbolic distortion by Ingres. While this may represent sensuous feminine beauty, her gaze, on the other hand, has been said to “[reflect] a complex psychological make-up” or “[betray] no feeling”. In addition, the distance between her gaze and her pelvic region may be a physical representation of the depth of thought and complex emotions of a woman’s thoughts and feelings. [6]

Ingres odalisque
La Grande Odalisque
© 2005 Musée du Louvre / Angèle Dequier

Ingres odalisque
Ingres was fascinated by the customs of the near Eastern world and was particularly intrigued by the exotic sensuality of the Orient. With the common theme of the female nude, Ingres added his own preference by using an odalisque (a female slave of the harem; the household of the sultan) as his main inspiration for the work. He drew further inspiration from Jacques-Louis David, echoing the poses of a female figure from David’s earlier painting.
It is apparent that critics of his day were not ready for Ingres’ vivid, erotic imagination. The artist’s use of long lines to convey curvature and sensuality caused Ingres’ work to be criticized until the mid 1820s.


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