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La Victoire de Samothrace, Unknown, 190 BC

Grande Odalisque




Ingres is famous for his nudes - and the Grande Odalisque is one of his most famous.

Commissioned by Napoleon’s sister, the painting reflects the public's fascination with the Middle East - in particular since Napoleon's victory in 1798 at the Battle of the Pyramids.

It also shows an evolution in the representations of the nude.

Ingres is taking the female nude - a subject usually limited to mythological representations - and transposes it to a contemporary (although exotic) environment.

The painting caused a scandal when it was first shown at the Salon of 1819.

Critics mocked its supposedly inhumane proportions - her twisted neck, her extremely long spine, the breast coming out from under her armpit, her leg bent at a strange angle…

Interestingly, these distortions were chosen by the artist - as the first sketches had perfect proportions.

Her stare is also intriguing - fixing the viewer in a detached, inviting or exasperated way - almost daring you to come closer or move on.

La Joconde, de Vinci (1519)


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