Grande Odalisque

Last updated
Grande Odalisque
Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, La Grande Odalisque, 1814.jpg
Artist Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres
Medium Oil on canvas
Dimensions88.9 cm× 162.56 cm(35 in× 64 in)
Location Louvre, Paris

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.


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.

Venus of Urbino (c. 1534), Titian Tiziano - Venere di Urbino - Google Art Project.jpg
Venus of Urbino (c. 1534), Titian
Portrait of Madame Recamier (1800), Jacques-Louis David Madame Recamier painted by Jacques-Louis David in 1800.jpg
Portrait of Madame Récamier (1800), Jacques-Louis David

Ingres portrays a concubine in languid pose as seen from behind with distorted proportions. The small head, elongated limbs, and cool color scheme all reveal influences from Mannerists such as Parmigianino, [3] whose Madonna with the Long Neck was also famous for anatomical distortion.

This eclectic mix of styles, combining classical form with Romantic themes, prompted harsh criticism when it was first shown in 1814. Critics viewed Ingres as a rebel against the contemporary style of form and content. When the painting was first shown in the Salon of 1819, one critic remarked that the work had "neither bones nor muscle, neither blood, nor life, nor relief, indeed nothing that constitutes imitation". [4] This echoed the general view that Ingres had disregarded anatomical realism. [5] Ingres instead favored long lines to convey curvature and sensuality, as well as abundant, even light to tone down the volume. [5] Ingres continued to be criticized for his work until the mid-1820s. [3]


Stemming from the initial criticism the painting received, the figure in Grande Odalisque is thought to be drawn with "two or three vertebrae too many." [1] [6] Critics at the time believed the elongations to be errors on the part of Ingres, but recent studies show the elongations to have been deliberate distortions. [7] Measurements taken on the proportions of real women showed that Ingres's figure was drawn with a curvature of the spine and rotation of the pelvis impossible to replicate. [6] It also showed the left arm of the odalisque is shorter than the right. The study concluded that the figure was longer by five instead of two or three vertebrae and that the excess affected the lengths of the pelvis and lower back instead of merely the lumbar region. [6]

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]

In other works

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." [8] [9] La Grande Odalisque is also referenced in the lyrics to 'Pretension/Repulsion' by Welsh alternative rock band Manic Street Preachers from their 2009 album Journal for Plague Lovers. The songs lyrics were written by the band's former lyricist Richey Edwards before his disappearance in 1995. According to the Manics' vocalist, James Dean Bradfield, the song's lyrics deal with "the idealisation of beauty, or what is ugliness".

Related Research Articles

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres 19th-century French Neoclassical painter

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres was a French Neoclassical painter. Ingres was profoundly influenced by past artistic traditions and aspired to become the guardian of academic orthodoxy against the ascendant Romantic style. Although he considered himself a painter of history in the tradition of Nicolas Poussin and Jacques-Louis David, it is his portraits, both painted and drawn, that are recognized as his greatest legacy. His expressive distortions of form and space made him an important precursor of modern art, influencing Picasso, Matisse and other modernists.

Guerrilla Girls is an anonymous group of feminist, female artists devoted to fighting sexism and racism within the art world. The group formed in New York City in 1985 with the mission of bringing gender and racial inequality into focus within the greater arts community. The group employs culture jamming in the form of posters, books, billboards, and public appearances to expose discrimination and corruption. To remain anonymous, members don gorilla masks and use pseudonyms that refer to deceased female artists. According to GG1, identities are concealed because issues matter more than individual identities, "Mainly, we wanted the focus to be on the issues, not on our personalities or our own work."

<i>Olympia</i> (Manet) Painting by Édouard Manet

Olympia is a painting by Édouard Manet, first exhibited at the 1865 Paris Salon, which shows a nude woman ("Olympia") lying on a bed being brought flowers by a servant. Olympia was modelled by Victorine Meurent and Olympia's servant by the art model Laure. Olympia's confrontational gaze caused shock and astonishment when the painting was first exhibited because a number of details in the picture identified her as a prostitute. The French government acquired the painting in 1890 after a public subscription organized by Claude Monet. The painting is on display at the Musée d'Orsay, Paris.

Francesco Hayez Italian painter

Francesco Hayez was an Italian painter. He is considered one of the leading artists of Romanticism in mid-19th-century Milan, and is renowned for his grand historical paintings, political allegories, and portraits.


Exoticism is a trend in European art and design, whereby artists became fascinated with ideas and styles from distant regions, and drew inspiration from them. This often involved surrounding foreign cultures with mystique and fantasy which owed more to European culture than to the exotic cultures themselves: this process of glamorisation and stereotyping is called 'exoticization'.

1814 in art Overview of the events of 1814 in art

Events in the year 1814 in Art.

Sylvia Sleigh Welsh-American artist

Sylvia Sleigh was a Welsh-born naturalised American realist painter who lived and worked in New York City. She is known for her role in the feminist art movement and especially for reversing traditional gender roles in her paintings of nude men, often using conventional female poses from historical paintings by male artists like Diego Vélazquez, Titian, and Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres. Her most well-known subjects were art critics, feminist artists, and her husband, Lawrence Alloway.

<i>Odalisque with Raised Arms</i>

Odalisque With Raised Arms is a painting by Henri Matisse, completed in 1923. The oil on canvas measuring 23 by 26 inches is in the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. Matisse's style changed and evolved drastically throughout his career, including a wide and varying collection of paintings depicting the female nude. His Odalisque paintings were inspired by his trip to Morocco. Many of the female subjects in the Odalisque paintings were modeled after Matisse's main model at the time, Henriette Darricarrère.

<i>A Family</i> (painting)

A Family is a 1951 oil on canvas painting by Irish artist Louis le Brocquy. It depicts a woman half-lying on a table and gazing out at the viewer accompanied by a cat in the foreground, a man sitting hunched over in the background, and a child holding a bouquet of flowers on one side, gazing at the woman. The painting's stark grey colour palette and its portrayal of dejection within the family unit attracted strong criticism from some contemporaries in post-war Ireland, while others praised the artist's willingness to address the problems of the time in the work. It is currently on display in The National Gallery of Ireland.

Nude (art) Work of art that has as its primary subject the unclothed human body

The nude, as a form of visual art that focuses on the unclothed human figure, is an enduring tradition in Western art. It was a preoccupation of Ancient Greek art, and after a semi-dormant period in the Middle Ages returned to a central position with the Renaissance. Unclothed figures often also play a part in other types of art, such as history painting, including allegorical and religious art, portraiture, or the decorative arts. From prehistory to the earliest civilizations, nude female figures are generally understood to be symbols of fertility or well-being.

<i>Portrait of Madame Récamier</i> Painting by Jacques-Louis David

Portrait of Madame Récamier is an 1800 portrait of the Parisian socialite Juliette Récamier by Jacques-Louis David showing her in the height of Neoclassical fashion, reclining on a Directoire style sofa in a simple Empire line dress with almost bare arms, and short hair "à la Titus."

<i>Portrait of Madame Moitessier</i> Painting by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres

Madame Moitessier is a portrait of Marie-Clotilde-Inès Moitessier begun in 1844 and completed in 1856 by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres. The portrait, which depicts Madame Moitessier seated, is now in the collection of the National Gallery in London, which acquired it in 1936.

<i>The Turkish Bath</i> Painting by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres

The Turkish Bath is an oil painting by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, initially completed between 1852 and 1859, but modified in 1862. The painting depicts a group of nude women at a pool in a harem. It has an erotic style that evokes both the Near East and earlier western styles associated with mythological subject matter. The painting expands on a number of motifs that Ingres had explored in earlier paintings, in particular The Valpinçon Bather (1808) and La Grande odalisque (1814).

<i>Odalisque with Slave</i> Painting by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres

Odalisque with Slave is an 1839 painting by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres commissioned by Charles Marcotte. Executed in oil on canvas, it depicts a nude odalisque, a musician, and a eunuch in a harem interior. The painting is in the Fogg Art Museum in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It is a classic piece of Orientalism in French painting.

<i>Raphael and La Fornarina</i> Painting by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres

Raphael and La Fornarina was painted in 1813, in Italy, by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres. It is the first of five versions of the painting, which he completed between 1813 and his death in 1867. In 1814 his first version was exhibited at the Salon. The work shows the renowned painter, Raphael, sitting in his studio with his mistress, La Fornarina, on his knee. His embrace reflects his affection and desire for her, while his gaze towards his own artwork, his portrait of his mistress, indicates his love for art. This contrast represents the painter's major conflict between who he loves and what he loves. The mistress makes eye contact with the viewer and her posture, specifically her arms resting on his shoulders, shows how proud and satisfied she is with being his mistress and inspiration. The Fornarina's sensual gaze at the viewer claims her importance and place both within the artist's studio and profession. Although Ingres thoroughly researched the Renaissance artist's life through biographies by Giorgio Vasari and Angelo Comolli, and planned to create a series of paintings based on his life, in the end he only produced two scenes: Raphael and La Fornarina and the Betrothal of Raphael. The depiction of the Fornarina resembles not only the Virgin Mary in the painting in the background of the Madonna della seggiola, but also Ingres's depiction of the promiscuous Grande Odalisque. The parallel highlights a connection between Raphael and Ingres as they both paint what they desire.

<i>Roger Freeing Angelica</i> (Ingres) Painting by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres

Roger Freeing Angelica or Ruggiero Freeing Angelica is an 1819 painting by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, inspired by Orlando Furioso by Ariosto. An oil painting on canvas measuring 147 x 199 cm, it is owned by the Louvre. Ingres subsequently painted several variants of the composition.

<i>La Dormeuse de Naples</i> (painting) Painting by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres

La Dormeuse de Naples was an 1809 painting by the French artist Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, now lost. He reused the pose in two later works, Odalisque with Slave (1839) and Jupiter and Antiope (1851).

<i>Portrait of Madame de Senonnes</i> Painting by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres

Portrait of Madame de Senonnes is an 1816 painting by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres. It shows Madame de Senonnes, née Marie-Genevieve-Marguerite Marcoz, viscountess of Senonnes. Marcoz was 31 when the portrait was completed. Ingres had earlier portrayed her in a drawing of 1813.

<i>Portrait of Comtesse dHaussonville</i> Painting by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres

The Portrait of Comtesse d'Haussonville is an 1845 oil on canvas painting by the French Neoclassical artist Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres.

<i>Portrait of Caroline Murat, Queen of Naples</i> Painting by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres

Portrait of Caroline Murat, Queen of Naples is an 1814 oil on canvas painting by the French Neoclassical artist Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres. Caroline Murat, née Bonaparte, was the sister of Napoleon, and married Joachim Murat, a Marshal of France and Admiral of France, and later King of Naples. Caroline commissioned the portrait as part of an effort to convey her standing and worth to reign as Queen of Naples during an unstable political climate.


  1. 1 2 Weston, Helen (1996). "A Look Back on Ingres". Oxford Art Journal. 19 (2): 114–116. doi:10.1093/oaj/19.2.114.
  2. Visone, Massimo (2012). "Caroline Murat, la Grande Odalisque et les "Bains de mer" sur le môle de Portici". Bulletin du Musée Ingres. Avril (84): 6–22. Retrieved 10 July 2016.
  3. 1 2 Kleiner, Fred; Christian J. Mamiya (2005). Gardner's Art Through the Ages (12 ed.). California: Wadsworth/Thompson Learning. pp. 826–827. ISBN   0-534-64091-5.
  4. Benjamin, Roger (December 2000). "Ingres Chez Les Fauves". Art History. 23 (5): 754–755. doi:10.1111/1467-8365.00242.
  5. 1 2 "Une Odalisque". Louvre Museum. Archived from the original on 2008-01-18. Retrieved 2008-01-09.
  6. 1 2 3 4 Maigne, Jean-Yves; Gilles Chatellier; Hélène Norlöff (July 2004). "Extra vertebrae in Ingres' La Grande Odalisque". Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. 97 (7): 342–344. doi:10.1258/jrsm.97.7.342. PMC   1079534 . PMID   15229267.
  7. Hautefeuille, Annie (2 July 2004). "Little extra out the back". The Australian. p. 16.
  8. Manchester, Elizabeth (December 2004). "Guerrilla Girls [no title] 1985–90". Tate.
  9. Chadwick, Whitney; Guerrilla Girls (1995). Confessions of the Guerrilla Girls. New York. p. 61.
External video
Nuvola apps kaboodle.svg Ingres' La Grand Odalisque, Smarthistory

Commons-logo.svg Media related to La Grande Odalisque at Wikimedia Commons