Ingres’ Oriental Pastiche

It took me forever to find a copy of Walter B. Denny’s article, “Orientalism in European Art,” but I’m glad that I finally got one (Dr. Denny was kind enough to mail me a copy). I plan on using this article as an introduction to Orientalism (i.e. European depictions of Middle Eastern/Far Eastern imagery). This article is great because it explains the concept of Orientalism in art but it really doesn’t delve into any theory. How perf for an intro class!

My favorite part of this article was actually in a footnote. Denny pointed out various anachronistic and inappropriate Oriental objects in Ingres’ painting, Odalisque with Slave (1839-40). For example, the slave’s headwear is 18th century Ottoman, but her pantaloons are Indian in design. Furthermore, the architectural background is Cairene and the drapes are European velvet. Denny also notes that the taj helmet on the left is also out-of-place.1

What a pastiche of Oriental elements! Obviously, Ingres was trying to depict the Orient with some degree of authenticity, but he wasn’t too concerned about historical, geographic or cultural accuracy.

1 Walter B. Denny, “Orientalism in Art,” The Muslim World 3-4 (1983): 267.

*I decided to count my reading of this article for a category in Heidenkind’s Art History Challenge.

  • heidenkind says:

    Don't you just love footnotes? They always contain the most interesting information. 🙂

  • M says:

    Hels from Art and Architecture, mainly emailed me this comment, since she experienced some technical difficulties with commenting:

    "If you assume that French colonisation of North Africa didn’t get going until at least 1830, earlier Orientalists were at a distinct disadvantage. They would never have seen slaves, harems and pantaloons with their own eyes. Their images would have been concocted from their imagination, novels, travelers’ notes and perhaps some scientists’ etchings.

    As far as I know, Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres (1780-1867) never traveled to exotic countries and presumably chose an Orientalist setting for images that may have been unacceptable in France. On the other hand, Eugène Delacroix (1798–1863) who was not even 20 years younger than Ingres, did travel to Spain, Morocco and Algeria. The much younger Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824-1904) most certainly traveled to Turkey, Egypt and possibly other North African territories as well."

  • M says:

    Thanks for your comment, Hels. I especially appreciate that you emailed me your comment. If anyone else experiences technical difficulties with commenting, please let me know!

    I'm glad that you pointed out that Ingres never traveled to exotic countries. He lived in various cities in Europe during his life, and he was living in Rome when he painted Odalisque with Slave. I wonder if Ingres' orientalist paintings would have been different, if the artist had actually traveled to exotic countries. Ingres definitely was concerned about giving an accurate rendition of the objects in Odalisque with Slave, even though the objects are incongruous in style, provenance, etc.

Email Subscription



This blog focuses on making Western art history accessible and interesting to all types of audiences: art historians, students, and anyone else who is curious about art. Alberti’s Window is maintained by Monica Bowen, an art historian and professor.