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La Grande Odalisque, an unusual woman

Updated on August 17, 2011
La grande odalisque by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres.
La grande odalisque by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres.

La Grande Odalisque is an oil painting by Jean Auguste Ingres showing an odalisque(concubine) dated 1814. I find this painting fascinating in so many ways, this piece is considered Ingres´ break from Neoclassicism to Romanticism (funny, because he despised Romanticism). He saw himself as a painter of history in the line of Jacques-Louis David and Nicolas Poussin.

La Grande Odalisque painting was commissioned by Queen Caroline Murat of Naples, Napoleon´s sister, La Grande Odalisque would mean great odalisque which already implies, her size. It took me quite long to realize what makes her so out of the ordinary. Her back is too long(according to an study, she has 5 extra vertebrae bones which clearly affects her pelvis and lower back). In other words, she is anatomically impossible even her pose is impossible to replicate.

This piece is full of sensuality, mystery and idealisation.The background looks quite undefined with a significative black portion but all this makes it more attractive to the eye. The different shades of blue and decorations make it extra striking to the viewer. Her gaze is directed straight to the spectator and the peacock feathered fan in her hand looks as it just had been used.

La Grande Odalisque position and size has a deeper meaning though, it is more than a naked woman staring at us. She is reflects her life as concubine, with her duties. She was part of the sultan harem, she was there to satisfy the carnal pleasures of the sultan, despise what she may feel or want. She reflects a woman´s deep thoughts, complex emotions and feelings.

*My challenge for you now is to stare at this painting and tell me what that is it make you feel?, what do you think when you look her in the eye?*


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    • epigramman profile image

      epigramman 6 years ago

      ...often the ideas or ideals of art are challenged by centuries (literally) of mystery - one of the most obvious examples being the Mona Lisa - so thank you once again for your education and enlightenment - I have really enjoyed your hubs thus far being somewhat of an art aficionado myself and I just posted a new one Help me, I'm in the wrong painting, no doubt inspired by reading your hubs the last couple of days

      lake erie time 5:23am home from work Ontario Canada - cooler nights now; it's a fall feeling and yes I love Degas' ballerinas and Georgia O'Keefe's flowers and my pussy cat's name is Little Miss Tiffy! She is quite the diva and my other cat is all white deaf cat Mister Gabriel.