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Work Odalisque and Slave

Department of Prints and Drawings: 19th century

L'Odalisque à l'esclave

Prints and Drawings
19th century

Prat Louis-Antoine

This drawing represents the artist's return to his famous Odalisque and Slave canvas of 1839 and to an 1842 work with a landscape background. The choice of subject points up Ingres's interest in Orientalism, already visible in his Grande Odalisque and at its apogee in the famous Turkish Bath of 1862, now in the Louvre.

Exoticism and a taste for detail

Here Ingres portrays a languorous odalisque in a harem, listening to the music of a slave girl. The young woman complacently adopts one of the languid poses familiar in Ingres's work, her body undulating in a near-musical way, as if she were dancing in a reclining position. The details - crown, fan, nargileh - are treated with a quasi-hyperrealist precision. The enclosed space gives rise to an ambiguous relationship between the two women, and the presence of the black eunuch in the background heightens the claustrophobic atmosphere.

Many years later

As he so often did, Ingres returns in this drawing to an earlier painting: an odalisque commissioned by his friend Charles Marcotte (1773-1864) - Marcotte d'Argenteuil, as he was known - and now in the Fogg Museum in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The painting dates from 1839, when Ingres was director of the Académie de France at the Villa Medici in Rome. In 1842 he painted a second version, with a background of a garden and an Oriental niche (Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore). The woman's pose, however, comes from the much earlier Sleeping Woman, painted in 1814 and now lost.

The triumph of Orientalism

Artists' growing fondness for trips to the Orient, the influence of travel books, and the taste for the exotic were the main contributing factors to the rise and enduring popularity of Orientalism in European painting in the 19th century. But unlike Delacroix, for example, Ingres never went East, drawing on engravings and Persian miniatures to make his décors as exotic as possible. Here the oriental atmosphere owes less to the use of color than to the voluptuous arabesques. At one point, Ingres considered titling this work Sultana Resting.


- PRAT Louis-Antoine, Ingres, Paris, Milan, 5 Continents éditions, 2004, n 48.

Technical description

  • Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (Montauban, 1780-Paris, 1867)

    Odalisque and Slave


  • Pencil, pen, sepia ink, brown wash, and white highlighting on marouflaged tracing paper

    H. 0.345 m; W. 0.475 m

  • Roger Gallichon bequest, 1918

    RF 4622

  • Prints and Drawings

    Due to their fragility, works on paper are not on permanent display in the museum.

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Additional information about the work

Lower left, in pencil: J. Ingres / 1858