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La Victoire de Samothrace, Unknown, 190 BC

The Turkish Bath

Ingres

1784

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Ingres painted this risqué painting in his old age.

He cheekily reminds us of this with the inscription "AETATIS LXXXII" (="age 82").

The painting was initially bought by a friend of Emperor Napoleon III - but was swiftly returned to the artist when the new owner's wife disapproved!

The painting is all about softness, curves and musicality.

The women's bodies unfold in 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 : indeed while it was acceptable for the public to admire a 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.

The painting was initially rectangular.

Ingres later cut it into a circle, framing the scene like a window, through which the viewer could peer in, like a voyeur.

La Joconde, de Vinci (1519)

Next:

The Oath of the Horatii

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