The Blonde Odalisque

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Cologne version
Munich version

The Blonde Odalisque or Resting Girl (French - Jeune fille allongée, Jeune fille couchée or L'Odalisque blonde) is the title of two paintings by François Boucher. The first dates to 1751 and is now in the Wallraf–Richartz Museum in Cologne, whilst the second was produced in 1752 and is now in the Alte Pinakothek in Munich. Both their subjects are thought to be Marie-Louise O'Murphy, mistress of Louis XV for two years. They belong to the odalisque genre.

Analysis[edit]

Boucher's The Blonde Odalisque, or Resting Girl, is filled with soft and flirtatious pastel colors such as pinks, yellows, and blues. The profusion of flowery tones boldly embodies the Rococo era. The nude girl and suggestive symbols throughout the painting help convey this erotic theme that Rococo painters love using. The different shades of yellow throughout the piece create a serene tone that accentuates the girls pinkish nude body. The nude girl is the main center point of the painting and our eyes are drawn there by the horizontal lines shown in her pose and in the way the drapes hang down the side of the room. The sheet and cushion surround her elegantly and make her look very light and airy. There are certain things placed throughout the painting that create a sense of wonder or confusion. The open book that seems to be abandoned, the lone rose left on the floor, and even her expression can be interpreted a few different ways. She could either be surprised or anxious. Maybe someone is entering the room that she wasn’t expecting, or she could be waiting anxiously for someone to arrive. The woman seen in the painting is a mistress of Louis VX, Marie-Louise O’Murphy. This information could also add to her expression of anxiety, as a mistress she could have been waiting for someone to come and be with her. The sexuality of the painting does imply that she is a mistress of some kind, the colors and her pose are very suggestive to something sensual.

Background[edit]

Intimacy and delicacy are common themes found in Boucher's work. Venus Consoling Love, and The Triumph of Venus are some of Boucher's other works that convey these themes. Both pieces show how Boucher's work progressed and helped pave the way to creating The Blonde Odalisque. His painting style is also something he's famous for, the soft and delicate, yet bold brush strokes are representative of common Rococo themes such as delicacy and beauty. The Blonde Odalisque has two somewhat different copies, the first one was made in 1751 and is now in Cologne, Germany. The Cologne version shows the girl resting with a book by her side and a fallen rose in the bottom middle of the painting. The later version of the painting was made in 1752 and is located in Munich, Germany. This version has a small golden box with a lion on the top in place of where the book was in the original version. This piece also has a different flower on the floor in a completely different location. The flower is tucked under the bed and is off to the left. The pillows on the floor in the Munich version are much lighter and easier to look at. The Cologne version with the book has a shadow cast over the pillows and some of the book. The two paintings are clearly very different but the slight changes that were made can be easily overlooked. Boucher and Marie- Louise O'Murphy met through their affiliation with the Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture in Paris, which is also known as The Academy of Painting. Boucher was the principal painter at the academy when he met Marie and chose her to be his chief model. Boucher claimed to have relied on Marie's looks for inspiration for his future paintings. Marie quickly succeeded as a model at The Academy of Painting and was eventually recognized by King Louis XV and became his youngest mistress.

Inspiration[edit]

Boucher's early work consisted of printmaking and illustrating books. He grew up in Paris and was surrounded by the most influential and talented artists of his time. Around the age of 23, Boucher was employed to make etchings after the drawings of Antoine Watteau, this connection helped shape his art style which later led him to paint The Blonde Odalisque. When The Blonde Odalisque was painted in 1751, it was clear that Boucher had been fully influenced by the Rococo movement.

Marie-Louise O'Murphy[edit]

The woman seen in the painting is Marie-Louise O'Murphy, an Irish woman who was also known as Louison. She was born in 1737 and at the age of 14 became the youngest mistress to King Louis XV. She was only 14 years old when she modeled for this painting, which is most likely why Boucher chose to paint the back of her. After the painting was commissioned by the French court of the Ancien Régime, The King was so intrigued by the painting that he summoned her for himself. She stayed with The king for two years before she was seen as a threat to The Kings other mistresses and was caught asking the King personal questions. She was later asked to leave the Parc-aux-Cerfs, which was what Louis XV's secret brothel was called. Madame De Pompadour, Louis XV's most famous mistress, would regularly dismiss young mistresses for trying to get closer to Louis XV, these accusations are often overlooked.