Grande Odalisque


Widely cherished for his immense contributions to the late 18th and early 19th centuries’ classical art, Jean Auguste Dominique is a French painter celebrated for his neoclassical artistic embodiment. His 1814 “Grande Odalisque” depicts a stark portrayal of themes deeply entrenched in the spirit of Romanticism. According to Khan Academy, the contemporaries of this classical art considered the painting as Ingres’ shift from the Neoclassicism type of art to Romanticism. Commissioned by Napoleon’s sister, who at the time was the Queen of Naples, Ingres’ work, particularly attracted both criticism and admiration due to its anatomic realism. However, by the time Ingres completed the painting in 1814, Napoleon had already been overthrown. His sister, the Queen of Naples, who commissioned the painting fled the country. Consequently, Ingres never received the commission for his work. “Grande Odalisque’s” artistic impression drew criticism due to its nudity, elongated proportions, and deprivation of anatomic realism.


Though shrouded in mystery, critics soon realized that the painting was not a depiction of Venus, but rather a languidly reclining harem woman. Even though, she is nude, the odalisque wears bracelets and a turban, with a peacock feather fan in her right hand. Grand treasures and a pipe bedeck her environ depicting her flamboyance. Evidently, the historical context of the painting is conspicuously missing. Contrarily, the art illuminates the comfy and sensual admiration that Parisians had of the harem women. Precisely the painting depicts a most modern Western idealization. The impacts of Ingres' work in this art largely depend on linearity and excellent use of color and effects to supremely bring about an idea. According to the Web Gallery of Art, the intense turquoise of the silk loincloth decorated in red floral intensifies the warm flesh tone of the painting.


Perhaps another outstanding feature that viewers could not avoid is the distortion of the figure. The back particularly stretches longer than usual, thus drawing skeptical assumptions as to whether the skeletal structure has extra vertebras in the real sense. The artist accentuated the sensuality using long, impressive lines and smooth brush strokes. Apart from that, the left leg seems detached from the pelvic area and does not systematically connect to the rear body in any anatomically realistic way.


Viewers can extract definite irregularities throughout the body of the harem woman. Distortions mainly add to the mysteriously subtle erotica of the naked lady. Ingres perpetuates the mysterious themes in the woman’s facial manifestations. For example, her face is no doubt reserved, pretty, and seductive. Viewers get more manifestations through the woman’s position. Seemingly aware that she is naked, she tends to hide her nudity from the glare of the viewer’s gaze. Even with the determination to hide her nakedness, her firm right-sided breast appears brightly under her right elbow. Different conflicting artistic aspects are precisely what make the painting enigmatic and fascinating to attract both criticism and admiration.


Unlike other Romanticism works of art, Ingres' depiction of nudity is hardly intimate. If anything, the eroticism here is not as stark as those of classical Romanticism. However, eroticism emerges gradually from the reserve and seems to question or assess the glare of the naked lady. The tradition of artistic nudity goes back to Titian and Giorgione times; nonetheless, Ingres managed to paint a living legend and not necessarily a symbol of Venus. Notably, he managed to lessen the realistic intimacy inherent in the art.