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La Victoire de Samothrace, Unknown, 190 BC

The Turkish Bath



Ingres painted The Turkish Bath when he was in his eighties - as he cheekily reminds us with the letters "AETATIS LXXXII" (="at age 82").

It was initially bought by a friend of French Emperor Napoleon III - but was swiftly returned when his wife disapproved!

The painting is all about curves, softness and sensuality.

The women's bodies unfold in musical arabesques, the movement of the women at the front mirroring the movement of the women at the back.

The painting shows the fascination Europeans had for the Middle East at the time.

It also shows double standards : while it was acceptable to represent naked women in a Middle Eastern harem, it would have been inconceivable to represent French women in such a way.

Fun fact : Ingres never actually went to the Middle East.

He drew inspiration from accounts available at the time, in particular the letters of Lady Montagu, the wife of the British Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire.