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(piano music) >> Male: We're at the Musee du Louvre, and we're looking at Ingres' "Grande Odalisque." What's interesting is that this painting was originally commissioned. Ingres was hired to paint it by the sister of Napoleon, who, at that time, was married to the king of Naples. What's also interesting is that by the time Ingres finished the painting and delivered it, well, they were gone. Napoleon had been deposed, and they were no longer really Naples. >> Female: But this did get shown in the Salon of 1819, nevertheless. >> Male: And caused a real scandal. >> Female: For a number of reasons. First of all, it's a female nude, and it's not Venus. It's an odalisque. An odalisque is a woman in a harem. Now of course, Ingres had never been in a harem, and so this is very much a Western idea of what a harem would be like. >> Male: OK, so I think that's really important because historically, this is completely inaccurate. >> Female: Right. >> Male: But it is very much a 19th century French construction of what they imagined that luxury-laden, sensuous, and distant experience was. >> Female: Yes, it's a real French fantasy. >> Male: It is a real French fantasy. France, of course, was a colonial power in that part of the world, and some art historians have written that in some ways, these sorts of paintings were a justification for France in that part of the world. >> Female: And for France, imagining itself as superior to that culture. >> Male: And therefore having a moral right to civilize, so it is very imperialist in its thinking. >> Female: But at the same time, as we're saying that, we have to imagine the Parisians in 1819 taking pleasure in looking at this odalisque. >> Male: Quite a bit of pleasure, and we see the same pleasure in the viewers in the Louvre right now. It is this voluptuous and very sensuous expression of the human body, one that is heightened because although Ingres comes out of the Neo-Classical tradition, was a student of David's. He is also this important bridge to Romanticism, but in this particular rendering, Ingres has taken the fidelity to anatomy as secondary. What's most important to him is the sensuality of the figure. For instance, he's extended the back. One might even argue there are extra vertebrae. He has placed her left leg in a sort of impossible position. If one imagines where that leg would connect with the hip, it doesn't quite work in relationship to the other hip. And so there is a languidness that he is able to achieve that would be impossible with a kind of anatomical accuracy. >> Female: And there is a kind of tension, I think, between sensuality and a distance that Ingres puts between us and the figure. >> Male: I think that's a really important point. We do see her back, but she turns back towards us, but that look is an icy, aloof, and distant look. >> Female: It's hardly inviting. >> Male: No, it is hardly inviting. There is the direct eye contact, and yet there is distance. There's always that conflict in this painting. I think that's exactly right. >> Female: The other thing is that the sensuality of the interior, in some ways, really competes, at least for me, with the nude female figure. That velvet of the cushion that she is on, I can feel those things. >> Male: You can almost hear her skin against those fabrics. >> Female: Yes. >> Male: It's so interesting. If you look at the composition, the frame is actually quite long, like her body is, but she almost doesn't fit. That is to say, she literally comes close to touching all four edges of this canvas. >> Female: So we see in this odalisque an image that is very much what we would consider Romanticism, an interest in the exotic ... >> Male: Sensuality. >> Female: And a kind of sensuality. Although he seems to be the standard-bearer for the academic tradition, he doesn't really uphold that 100% in his work. >> Male: It's interesting because he comes out of the Neo-classical, and he's got that precision and that sense of the morality of painting, but then ... >> Female: And the interest in line and ... >> Male: But then he is a sensualist in his painting, in fact, and that's something that ebbs and flows but is with him for his entire career. (piano music)