Artworks
Grande Odalisque
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ebrowne's picture

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Ingres was most popular for painting naked ladies the way he thought they should look rather than what is anatomically correct (hello, misogyny) and Grand Odalisque is no exception.

So if you stood this poor girl up she would have “two or three vertebrae too many,” a twisted spine and pelvis, a significantly shorter left arm, a left leg that is either detachable or made of Silly Putty, and a teeny tiny head...making Ingres a really kinky dude. When this painting was presented to the Paris Salon in 1819, they all pretty much hated it because of its anatomical screwed-up-ness and one critic stated that it had “neither bones nor muscle, neither blood, nor life, nor relief, indeed nothing that constitutes imitation.” Harsh...but valid?

But I guess it’s not all bad since the male gaze-y voyeurism of this painting and other works by Ingres influenced artists such as Edgar Degas, Pablo Picasso, Cindy Sherman, and David Hockney. This work specifically was also appropriated by the Guerilla Girls (all hail!) in 1989 in order to protest the number of male artists vs. female artists represented in the Metropolitan Museum. They gave Grand Odalisque a gorilla mask and wrote next to her, “Do women have to be naked to get into the Met. Museum?” Needless to say, it was pretty badass. Perhaps even more badass than the original work.

Contextually, this painting is the result of a threesome between Neoclassicism, Mannerism and Romanticism as it is fascinated with the Near East, extended limbs, and sensuality.  Ingres wasn’t concerned with fitting into one particular style.  He was more focused on getting this painting to the lady who commissioned it, Napoleon’s sister, Queen Caroline Murat of Naples. Impressive, except that she was pretty much evil. Biographers described her as: “Caroline, with a baseness that makes her resemble some monstrous queen of antiquity, betrayed husband, brother, and country alike to slake the thirst of her unprincipled ambitions.” So, she was a bit of a psychopath, but everyone has his/her own faults! At least she had good taste in art.

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Here is what Wikipedia says about Grande Odalisque

Grande Odalisque, also known as Une Odalisque or La Grande Odalisque, is an oil painting of 1814 by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres depicting an odalisque, or concubine. Ingres' contemporaries considered the work to signify Ingres' break from Neoclassicism, indicating a shift toward exotic Romanticism.

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.


Check out the full Wikipedia article about Grande Odalisque.