Artists have forever been able to take us to places where we have never been or would like to go. They can make our fantasies come alive on the canvas and transport our thoughts to far off places. Real life is often harder to paint because you are bound by reality and your audience is not always willing to face it. Therefore, the artists that can paint reality but connect it in some way to our fantasies are the ones that truly understand the power of art. Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres painted the Grand Odalisque in 1814 during the Romantic era of France.
He uses a classical linear style and narrates morality, which is referred to as a poussiniste technique. France at the time was fascinated with the orient and other far off places and politically involved with Turkey and Africa. The erotica of this painting captured them and took them where one’s imagination could take control and forbidden things could be explored. Ingres uses a classically influenced body on the female with the volumetric, softly lit, warm skin that is revealed to the viewer.
Her reclining pose is one so familiar to the art world and obviously referencing the earlier masterpieces Ingres studied during his life. He has idealized the woman’s shape by elongating her back and softening her curves. ( If you can mention elongated poses were often used because long limbs on a woman was considered ideal beauty. There is also a name for this kind of pose but I cannot think of it. Commonly found in mannerism but that was like 1520-1600, and was High Renaissance. That might help you find the term. High Renaissance features elongated, contorted poses, crowded canvases, and harsh lighting and coloring.
You could use that to compare) Her face portrayed as more like those of the Renaissance, (nice you picked up on that) idealized, as well and looking straight out at the viewer. She is doing what the concubines did best, inviting us in to her private scene. With Mannerist (good) and Venetian colors, the background fabrics are cool and highly detailed to contrast the warmth and smoothness of the woman’s skin. Ingres’ hyper real details throughout the scene only help sell the illusion that this is something that could be in real life.
The props placed in this harem complete the erotica of the scene and add symbolic reference to the romantic scene. A pipe is placed to the side symbolizing the euphoric atmosphere. The Odalisque holds a peacock fan in her hand and sensually brushes it against her upper thigh. The jeweled turban and gold bracelets are characteristic of the orient and add to the focus of her nude body. With all the erotic reference and symbolism the viewers were able to peek at a forbidden and immoral scene without having to confront the subject of sex. I remember this one and it was consider a Oriental nude, which in those times the idea of sex was lessen he does by showing orient artifacts the fan the turban placing her in orient setting was exploiting women trapped in their own closed world. She gases as if tired broken and worn down. ) Manet was a painter of the Realism era that referenced Ingres’ Grand Odelisque with his Olympia, painted in 1865. This painting is considered to be the very first truly modern painting. Here we have the reclining female nude again, but this time it is portrayed as never before.
Much like the Odelisque, Olympia is a nickname of some of the prostitutes of the time. However, Olympia is an actual portrait of Victorine Meurent, a local French prostitute. Manet has not simply painted a female nude as so many before him, but instead he has taken it a step further and painted this female naked. This painting is closely modeled after the Venus of Urbino from Venice because of the position of the figure and the composition of the scene. Even though there are some large differences, Olympia has most in common with Ingres’ Odalisque.
Both paintings show the figures with some ornaments and accessories on their nude bodies. Manet chose to put more focus on the fact this his woman was purposefully naked by leaving a ribbon on her neck and by having one of her slippers be carelessly dangling off her foot. He places an exotic orchid in her hair, which is considered erotic and sexual and a black cat at the foot of the bed the represents promiscuity. A clever opposite of the Venus of Urbino’s dog placed at the end of the bed for fidelity. Line was very important to Manet as it was to Ingres.
His color patch technique and hard light earned more critisism for Manet. The Salon said that his figure looked flat and un-modeled, but Manet wasn’t trying to portray an ideal feminine embodiment. He was trying to show us the scene as it was seen it in real life. This was a look into another forbidden scene of fantasy except with the reality of the current indulgers. Unlike the Odalisque Olympia was not received by the public as a glimpse into forbidden pleasures, instead she was looked at as a public display of France’s immorality.
While some critics labeled the painting as pornography, the crowds were very intrigued by Olympia and came in rushes to see her when she was finally displayed. This was not meant to through France’s moral faults at her but to capture the way she was at the time, life without idealistic cover-up. Although the people of France were disgusted that Manet would want to capture a prostitute, they were more appalled at her haughty gaze towards them. She was the one in control and the critics were not used to that kind of mood.
Society was undergoing revolutions in the industrial, intellectual and working classes so control was a big concern. Realist painters like Manet were more concerned with making the everyday subjects be acceptable in art instead of playing to the ideal. I chose to write about these works because of the effect they had on me the first time that I saw them in this class. The Grand Odalisque was stunning and made me want to creep into the picture. It’s a beautiful work with captivating detail. Olympia was my favorite from this half of the semester class.
She stares at you so matter of fact and as if to beg you to challenge her. Her small frame is so different from the voluptuous models seen so many times before. I think that the two offer a very intriguing comparison and are worthy of recognition. Both Ingres and Manet painted the reclining female nude, one as a concubine and the other as a prostitute. They focused the lighting on their figures and were concerned with the use of line. Although the detail that Ingres used did not match the brushwork of Manet, they still were both obviously concerned with symbolism.
The biggest difference between the Grand Odalisque and Olympia is in how they were received by the public. Ingres harem was from somewhere far away in an exotic land where this scene was supposedly acceptable. The viewers were invited into the scene as bystanders and able to indulge the fantasies with imaginations of that place. Manet’s bedroom scene was just like the one that everyone had at home and very familiar. As the viewer you are locked into the gaze of the female as if you were there for her.
She makes you part of the scene instead of a bystander. Your fantasies of her are laid out in plain view and reminding you of the current socially unacceptable prostitution taking place. Ingres was a master of fantasy and used hyper-detail to fake reality, but Manet could paint reality and connect it to the fantasies that we indulge in our everyday life. This association that Manet mastered between the fantasy world and the actual world makes anything possible for the viewer, and that is the true power of art.