Odalisque, 1874



A perfectly rendered, almost luminous nude woman reclines in a dimly lit interior filled with textiles, fruits, and luxury goods evocative of the Arab world. The painting’s setting and title allude to her being a courtesan in a harem. For 19th-century European artists, depicting the nude female form was a fundamental component of academic training and a benchmark of artistic excellence. The imagined harem setting – a space historically forbidden to men – lent a romantic and Orientalist narrative context to a scene that would have appealed to the sexual and colonialist fantasies of a European audience.



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