la grande odalisque meaning
The Grande Odalisque by Ingres
Actually, imperfections and inaccuracies Ingres painted were all done on purpose, because perfection of academic painting and a colour too precise didn’t allow the painter to put the feeling inspired by a curvy body on the canvas.
That’s why if you look carefully at Ingres’s Grande Odalisque her hips seem to be excessively wide and her right arm too long.
Portrait of Madame Moitessier (1856) by J.A.D. Ingres.
La Grande Odalisque – the word “odalisque” stems from the Turkish term for ‘harem concubine’ – was commissioned by Caroline Murat, Napoleon Bonaparte’s sister and wife of Marshal Joachim Murat, King of Naples. It may have been a matching piece for another nude, La Dormeuse de Naples (now lost). In any event, due to the collapse of the regime, Ingres received no payment for the work. It is Ingres’ second major female nude, after the Valpincon Bather (1808). Like its sister, it represents the idea of femininity – the unchanging and eternal ‘feminine ideal’ – rather than a real live woman. But unlike the cool, muted neoclassicism of the Valpincon canvas, La Grande Odalisque is rich in oriental colour and opulence. This does not demonstrate – as some critics have suggested – a shift away from neoclassicism towards romanticism. It merely indicates a readiness on the part of Ingres to embrace the warmer ambience of Venetian painting, when the situation demanded it. For more about the artistic use of colour in Venice, see: Titian and Venetian Colour Painting (1500-76).
Figure 1. La Grande Odalisque
Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker provide a description, historical perspective, and analysis of Ingres’s La Grande Odalisque.
La Grande Odalisque was appropriated by the feminist art group Guerrilla Girls for their first color poster and most iconic image. The 1989 Metropolitan Museum poster gave Ingres’s odalisque a gorilla mask and posed the question “Do women have to be naked to get into the Met. Museum?”. The poster used data from the group’s first “weenie count” and drew attention to the overwhelming number of female nudes counted in the Modern Art sections of The Met. The poster was rejected by the Public Art Fund in New York and was run in advertising space on New York City buses until the bus company cancelled the lease arguing that the image was “too suggestive and that the figure appeared to have more than a fan in her hand.”  
Grande Odalisque attracted wide criticism when it was first shown. It is renowned for the elongated proportions and lack of anatomical realism. The work is owned by the Louvre Museum, Paris which purchased the work in 1899.
This woman lying on a divan is offering herself because she is nude and turns her face towards us. The painting’s title, which means “harem woman,” and the accessories around her conjure up the sensuous Orient. But the woman is also discreet because she shows only her back and part of one breast. The nude was a major theme in Western art, but since the Renaissance figures portrayed in that way had been drawn from mythology; here Ingres transposed the theme to a distant land. The subject of the odalisque fascinated Boucher in the eighteenth century and was later chosen as a theme by Théodore Chassériau (1819-1856), one of Ingres’s pupils. Throughout his career, many of Ingres’s works feature Orientalist themes, such as The Turkish Bath (Louvre), which he painted towards the end of his life. The female nude, historical scenes, and the portrait were Ingres’s favorite genres.
De Vergnette François