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The Grand Odalisque (1814)

Though he never traveled to the “Orient,” Jean-August-Dominique Ingres, a French Classical Painter, nonetheless produced many paintings depicting veiled women that enhanced and influenced the image of the seductive  and sensual Orient.  Ingres’ most famous images of Oriental women are painted in the nude or in a state of undress, such as his famous Grand Odalisque from 1814. Ingres’ odalisque (the term for a female Turkish servant) was criticized for her elongated and anatomically incorrect proportions—scholars say she has between one and three vertebrae too many in her spine. Laying undressed on a pile of clothes, the odalisque’s veil-like headdress covering the her hair functions as an exoticizing detail that marks her as a woman from a foreign land.  This exoticism legitimizes her nudity as in this period of painting it mainly subjects from antiquity, such as Venus, the goddess of love, were depicted in the nude.

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