Thursday, 3 May 2007

A bunch of odalisques (1)

The 'orientalistic' sub-branch of the academic 'pompiers' painters has often a mighty and interesting erotic undertone, as we have already seen in the One day behind us, let's buy a slave posting last month. Chambermaids in general are a well-known phantasy theme, and therefore there's no wonder that the 'orientalistic' variant of a chambermaid, the 'Odalisque' thematic is recurrent all through the 'academic' painters spectrum.

Here a small first choice, note that most odalisques have a metal armband -or even more often a 'legband'- as symbol of slavery and nice pictorial contrast between warm skin and cold metal :-)
Narghiles (Hookas) abound in all such paintings, 'la va sans dire'.

Mariano Fortuny's other Odalisque (we saw already one last month)... is she listening to the music of her Master (as her inviting hand could hint) or of a slave?
A (female) slave plays music in the (more famous) Ingres' painting, where an Eunuch stays behind in the shadows. I won't go much into "La Grande Odalisque" of Ingres: she has at least 5 ribs too much for my tastes, just like his "La grande baigneuse". Ingres is only partly 'academist'.

And Lefebvre's Odalisque? She does not even look at us, while the black pearls spread neglected under the silk.

The interest of these figure lies mostly in their pose, which is not that of women wearing invisible clothes, but of women consciously exposing their bodies. No woman would ever lie like these under clothes: these are poses of women who are both naked and conscious of their nakedness and of what is revealed by it.

You want to confront with the 'Mafia degli scarabocchi' painters? Here you go: Matisse (Matisse painted an infinite series of scarabocchi-Odalisques), Renoir (note that in 1870 he was still able to paint a 'non scarabocchial' Odalisque)...

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