Grande Odalisque

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Grande Odalisque
Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, La Grande Odalisque, 1814.jpg
ArtistJean Auguste Dominique Ingres
MediumOil on canvas
Dimensions88.9 cm × 162.56 cm (35 in × 64 in)
LocationLouvre, 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
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[edit]

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]


  1. ^ a b 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. ^ a b 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. ^ a b "Une Odalisque". Louvre Museum. Archived from the original on 2008-01-18. Retrieved 2008-01-09.
  6. ^ a b c d 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 links[edit]

External video
video icon Ingres' La Grand Odalisque, Smarthistory

Media related to La Grande Odalisque at Wikimedia Commons