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The Turkish Bath (1862)

Ingres painted the Turkish Bath at the end of his life, five years before his death. The image is one of Ingres’ most erotic, and the scene of women bathing together was considered too risqué for its original French patron and was returned to Ingres before being  sold to the Turkish ambassador Hamdi Bey and later French patrons before entering the Louvre’s collection in the early twentieth century. The image, with its cylindrical frame, creates a peep-hole with which the viewer can gaze upon a scene where dozens of women, many of them wearing veils, bathe and converse together in the intimate setting of the Turkish bath. In Turkey and across the Middle East and north Africa, such baths, or hammams , were common destinations for women to congregate to socialize as well as bathe together, but the homoerotic depiction of women bathing transforms what was a social space for friends into a lush, imagined sexual fantasy.

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