Abbey in the Oak Forest

Caspar David Friedrich, Abbey Amidst Oak Trees, 1809

Caspar David Friedrich stands apart from other artists of his same artistic movement and time period.  He still displays the elements of romanticism -- stylized, not quite realistic imagery, drama, and emotion -- but his work clearly differs from that of Turner or Goya.

The last wall of an ancient abbey dominates the center of the painting, but the taller surrounding trees cloak it in shadow.  Graves litter the foreground and, almost indistinguishably from the headstones, a line of monks enters the still standing door with a coffin.  Maybe the people amount to nothing more than populating the cemetery, Friedrich's almost existential statement of the futility of human existence.  The faraway moon reaches its last phase as life and monument decay.

But Friedrich also delivers an unclear message about the future.  Is there hope, in the now freestanding testament of stone?  Does the cross in the foreground seem to fall or ascend?  The Gothic window seems almost an arrow pointing to God, and light bathes it from above.  But is the sun rising or setting on the scene?  The arrow of the window could indicate the souls' destination, or force the viewer's gaze upward, or point accusingly to a God that may or may not exist.  Time passes under the eye of the observer.  It is unthinkable to survey the painting without pondering its future.  Maybe oak trees will grow stronger with the passage of seasons and the turning of the moon.  Or maybe the land has been too scarred for it ever to yield life again.  The trees may be dormant in the snows.  They could be past repair.

Friedrich's paintings draws my attention because they seem to tap into some sphere of knowledge beyond nation-building and the accumulation of wealth, where life is fragile and primal.  They call into question our existence.  Who are we, and who is our God?  Why are we here?  Why do we even bother, and where is our purpose?  Abbey Amidst Oak Trees does not make people smile at its humor or wonder at its detail.  The ruin's last wall, as much as any intact sacred place, commands respect and thought.

  • 7:00 AM

Esto es peor (This is worse)

Francisco de Goya, Esto es peor, 1812-15
This,” Goya sardonically proclaims, “is worse.” 


The Belvedere Torso
It certainly is. The body of a Spanish rebel, naked and mutilated, has been grotesquely impaled on the stump of a tree. Depending on who you ask, that’s either two branches, one through his anus and one through his shoulder, or one branch going all the way through. Yikes. In the background, another Spaniard is being dragged away by a mustached, uniformed soldier, utterly indifferent to the corpse in the foreground. Francisco de Goya based this particular etching, part of his Disasters of War series, on a real incident which occurred in Chinchón, the town where his brother lived. Two French soldiers were killed by rebels, and their fellows took revenge on the townspeople.

The jarring cruelty depicted in Goya’s work is enough to unsettle and disturb just from the surface, but let’s look deeper. Neo-classicism was still an active movement in the early 19th century, and it was still fashionable for neophyte artists to travel to Rome and study from early sculpture. Goya was one of those who did, and he apparently kept those early sketches and referred to them later. The pose of the corpse seems to be based on the Belvedere Torso, a heavily damaged sculpture missing a head, both arms, and both legs below the knees (presumably why it’s called the Belvedere Torso and not the Belvedere Elbow). Knowing this, we see that Goya gets a jab in at the Neo-classicists and the ancient sculptures they venerate. Damaged sculptures, missing arms, heads, and legs, are praised as beautiful art, while the same damage inflicted on a living body is horrifying. The slack-jawed head of the corpse turns toward the viewer, inviting them to share in the macabre joke.

  • 7:00 AM

Snow Storm: Hannibal and his Army Crossing the Alps

J.M.W. Turner,  Snow Storm: Hannibal and his Army Crossing the Alps, 1812

Turner’s works have always been an experience to look at. Yes, I said experience, because of the daring colorist he was, the raw, emotional depiction of nature, and the brilliant handling of light, as well as the historical importance he raised through artall summed up on one single canvas. Although the use of light and color might be compared to the more vibrant and innovative Impressionist style, we must keep in mind that Turner came before the salon de refuses, some may even argue that Turner’s works inspired the Impressionists. The emotional approach to painting, choosing colors based on intuitive feelings rather than direct transcription of actual colors, is undoubtedly unprecedented in Turner’s years.

Snow Storm: Hannibal and his Army Crossing the Alps serves as a great example of Turner’s emotional take on nature. Romanticism, in every aspect of the arts, painting, music, literature, and poetry, all stressed the glory and beauty of nature. Rather than John Constable’s idyllic pictures of the British country side, Turner chose to capture the awe-inspiring power of the natural world. In Snow Storm, our eyes are fixated upon the swirling vortex of snow and wind. The storm is so strong that the figures of Hannibal’s soldiers fighting in the foreground seem fairly insignificant. We can barely spot Hannibal, the title figure of the painting, riding an elephant in the far center. The heart of the picture is the black curving storm that threatens to swallow not only Hannibal and his troopers, but even the sun itself. 

So that’s why I find dauntingly beautiful about Turner’s oceans. We rarely find such intense light shining through pure, dominating dark colors and such powerful water splashing through the sky. Was it his spit, or even sharp fingernails? Perhaps. It was more, maybe, of Turner’s keen eye and intuitive sense towards nature.

  • 7:00 AM

The Forge

Francisco de Goya, The Forge, 1817

The experience of viewing Goya’s work has not been a pleasant one. First knowing him from The Third of May, I was blown away by his composition and ability to create mood and capture emotions. However, it seems rather hard to delve further into his art without getting creeped out by certain elements of his work that seem to work at a subconscious level. It becomes easier knowing his life story and the historical context. However, something else then arises in the appreciation of his work. Even though Goya’s composition and choosing of color to suggest mood are beyond criticism, and his subjects are always poignant and incisive, I was not entirely convinced by his skills of actually putting the brushes to canvas. It already sounds very presumptuous to say so, but I think it's fair to say that his figures are of some distance from those of neoclassicism’s painters and even periods previous to that. They seem unfinished and lack certain refinement. Though “refined” works are not necessarily - sometimes even the opposite of “good” works - Goya, nevertheless, took quite a leap from his predecessors. I am not sure if he had done so in better serving what he wanted to achieve through the entire work as a whole, just like those of El Greco and maybe later Picasso’s. But I wouldn’t be surprised and take them seriously, especially some of his etchings, if I saw them among the illustrations for books such as Oliver Twist. Perhaps I have to see his works up close to let brushworks and pigments reveal more about their significances. 

Enough of my ignorant questioning. The Forge demonstrates a similar style of The Third of May, and is recognized as a paradigm of his late work. The painting largely reminds me of Velazquez's Apollo in the Forge of Vulcan. However, despite a similar subject and composition, Goya turns the religious theme to a secular one. The god is removed, we are left with the down-to-earth, hardcore labor of the time: three muscular men soaked in sweat form an unshakable pyramid, hammering out the future of the nation. Set in plain and ambiguous surroundings, the painting becomes more symbolic than just a close observation of the lower class. Knowing that the painting was done at around the same time of the creation of The Third of May, it picks up another tone of depicting people's resistance to Napoleon's invasion. While the painting was dominated by black and gray, the red blazing metal and the white shirt attract the most attention, a similar method that was used in Third of May. With his back turning on us, we can't tell if they are the same guy. Perhaps Goya hoped that he had resurrected after being "crucified" by the French army, and joined the making of the future. 

  • 7:00 AM

The Milkmaid of Bordeaux

Francisco Goya, The Milkmaid of Bordeaux, 1825-1827

After Francisco Goya's death, his reputation skyrocketed. Curators from France and England were buying all of his pieces. They even purchased paintings that were given to Goya's son. People from other countries knew that he was a eccentric sketch artist, and they thought his paintings were not held to the same standard.

During a short period after his death, some of his friends searched through his home in Bordeaux to find that Goya was a hoarder.  Whereas some artists would keep some unfinished sketches and paintings, Goya kept many of finished pieces that critics deemed as masterpieces. The Milkmaid of Bordeaux was one of these pieces that Goya hid from the world. He spent a long time perfecting the details of this image. 

The curve of the woman's back, along with her content facial expression, bring harmony to the painting. This is a typical Goya painting, due to the background and source of light hovering around the milkmaid's body. Pulsating like an aura, creating a heavenly layer to the painting. The amount of time that Goya spent on this painting, stands out from the rest of the portraits of other females. There is more dimension and poise of this woman than in other works such as The Duchess of Alba I

The Milkmaid of Bordeaux, exemplifies the artistic ability of Francisco Goya. He creates pieces that make people think, and have personal affiliations behind. But this piece is more serene and enjoyable than some pieces because of the tones of blues and light sources. Goya can do dark and creepy like no other, but it shows his talent that show us something so beautiful.

  • 7:00 AM

The Wreck of a Transport Ship

J.M.W. Turner, The Wreck of a Transport Ship, 1810

The Wreck of a Transport Ship immediately reminded me of Gericault’s Raft of the Medusa. While Turner’s depiction of tragedy at sea may not equal that of Gericault in terms of emotional desolation and tragedy, Turner is easily on par technically with Gericault. What struck me most of all in this painting was the movement. Turner manages to create massive amounts of movement in the violent swells and troughs in what to a lesser artist would seem to be a seascape.

Some of his usual powerful brushstrokes are missing in this painting, but what he lacks there he makes up for with the violence of the sea. The attention to detail in this painting blows me away. Far in the background, almost completely obscured by the mist from the storm and the waves, a broken mast toppling to the ground on top of an unfortunate lifeboat full of sailors is barely visible. Turner’s composition here reminds me of the structure of two other famous paintings of his—Snowstorm: Hannibal and his Army Crossing the Alps and The Slave Ship.

In both of these paintings, as well as Wreck of a Transport Ship, we feel the weight of the sky and snow and rain pressing down on the poor souls caught in nature’s wrathful grip. In each of these, Turner skillfully makes the viewer feel absolutely miniscule. As the ship breaks up, it brings to mind thoughts on the ease with which even something as proud and massive as that ship can be completely destroyed by a simple storm. To me, this painting really is typical Turner. A ferocious sky and a rather dark palette complement a rather dark subject matter and humans take a secondary role. As usual, we struggle to make out the details of the faces of any of the damned crewmembers. The ship seems as though it is about to turn on its former masters and crush the crewmembers who cling to a raft. There is no hope in this painting.


  • 7:00 AM

Witches In The Air

Witches In The Air Goya, 1789

During the romantic movement, interest in witchcraft arose in the subject of paintings. For Goya, his interest came from a deeper place. During this time (the Ominous Decade) in Spain, Goya took a stand agains the Spanish Inquisition for hunting witches and driving people away from a non-religious based government, but towards the church by using witchcraft nonsense to draw attention. This piece is one of six he did for the Duke and Duchess of Osuna in 1789 to decorate their country house. Which had me thinking: if I were to decorate my country house, I know I would want a picture of three wizard-like figures with giant dunce caps holding a naked man in the air with another man running away, another taking cover on the ground, and who can forget the donkey in the shadows. Yes, that is what I would need in my country home. A warm cozy welcoming, I'd say.

But honestly, I do love this piece. It screams Goya and illustrates his struggles. I have seen his ups and downs as a painter  and this painting certainly shows his dark places. The man lying on the floor covering his head draws me the most, after the man being hovered in the air of course, but the man on the ground is giving up, he isn't running away, though he clearly doesn't want what is coming, but he lays there waiting anyway. That to me illustrates Goya not liking whats going on around him, but shutting down anyway and waiting for the next blow.

A confusing thing about this painting to me is the man walking away. Goya uses shadows and lighting very well in this piece, also movement of the body in the air, but the man moving away from the scene does not look like he is in any hurry. He looks to me like he has covered his head and is strolling away like he was never seen. I like to think that he was the one who delivered the man hanging in the air, that is what makes most sense to me, but I couldn't find the story behind what was actually happening here. And as long as I'm on topic of confusing things Goya paints, I like the donkey, it doesn't bother me really, but no story I can make up looking at this painting includes a donkey. So on behalf of me loving Goya and not finding much information on the story, I'm going to have to let that one slide, too.

I don't normally write about what I don't know about a painting or the stories I can come up with while looking at them, but Goya gives me that opportunity or a feeling that as a viewer I can do that. This may be a personal thing, but I'd like to think that anyone who knows Goya' story form tapestries to tragedies can also feel this way while looking at a painting of his.  

  • 7:00 AM

The Third of May 1808

Goya, The Third of May 1808, 1814

Honestly, the part of this piece that truly gets to me is the building in the background. This horrific scene occurs just around the hill Príncipe Pío, one of several places where executions like this happened, very close to what seems to be a small village. The horrors of war hide in plain sight, it seems. Between the hill and those buildings, barely distinguishable, is a mass of bodies and torches. Maybe they are onlookers, maybe they are more captives and soldiers, but clearly more people are coming to this spot; a spot which seems to have only one purpose.

The strong, straight line of French soldiers directly contrasts the chaotic mess of their targets. Each rifle points straight forward, their pointed ends looking like teeth ready to devour. On the other end, the group of captives cover their eyes and face towards the one man brave enough to stand tall in the face of these soldiers. These captives are dressed in dark garb, not uniform at all, some lying dead on the blood-stained ground. Only this one man, dressed in glowing white and yellow, stands just as tall as those ready to kill him. His arms stretch open in a gesture clearly referencing the crucified Christ, opening himself to his fate.

Illuminating the scene is the huge lantern in the middle. Its light spreads to each captive, but engulfs the soldiers in shadow. These soldiers are faceless and uniform, their cruelty stretching to the ends of their guns, while the illuminated faces of the rebels are brutally emotional, their fear almost palpable. But the beautiful aspect of this piece, one Goya created so artfully, is how reactionary it is for the viewer. Immediately, I felt horrified and sympathetic. But, after looking upon the martyred rebels and those about to join them, I felt respect for those captives sacrificing their lives for their cause. Goya artfully mixes historical fact with dramatic effect into one horrific event. He makes it all seem far too real.

  • 7:00 AM

Odalisque with a Slave

Jean Auguste Ingres, Odalisque with a Slave 1842

Odalisque With Slave 1839
Clearly one can see the neoclassical touches here: the architecture, style (including the slave and her garb and Odalisque's accessories), and the fact that Ingres thought it was good enough to paint it twice. This (the top) is the later, Ingres painting this one with two of his students. I liked the 1842 one more because of the addition of the garden, even though Ingres had no hand in painting the garden. There isn't much difference at all between the two, and depth of the garden isn't night and day for me, but I do appreciate it more because it shows off a bit more talent. 

The story from this pieces comes from Lady Mary Wortley Montagu's Turkish Letters in 1763. I read some of her letters of her travels for a while. The woman had some pretty great adventures. Though I couldn't find the exact part referencing her being serenaded in a bedroom, I did find her writing about her time at the Turkish Baths, though:

"In one of these cover'd Waggons I went to the Bagnio about 10 a clock. It was allready full of Women. It is built of Stone in the shape of a Dome with no Windows but in the Roofe, which gives Light enough. There was 5 of these domes joyn'd together, the outmost being less than the rest and serving only as a hall where the portress stood at the door. Ladys of Quality gennerally give this Woman the value of a crown or 10 shillings, and I did not forget that ceremony. The next room is a very large one, pav'd with Marble, and all round it rais'd 2 Sofas of marble, one above another. There were 4 fountains of cold Water in this room, falling first into marble Basins and then running on the floor in little channels made for that purpose, which carry'd the streams into the next room, something less than this, with the same sort of marble sofas, but so hot with steams of sulphur proceeding from the baths joyning to it, twas impossible to stay there with one's Cloths on. The 2 other domes were the hot baths, one of which had cocks of cold Water turning into it to temper it to what degree of warmth the bathers have a mind to."Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, 1 April 1717. 

This scene sets the tone that I see painted here, I can see the lavishness of the Baths and the heat and luxury odalisque is in. She has a face of peace and exhaustion about her, I can't tell if this is because she is being sung to sleep or because she is hot and tired. Either way, I see her just having gotten out of the baths and enjoying her Turkish adventure. even though I know that the painting was commissioned by King Wilhelm I of Wurttemburg this story creates a larger escape for me. Executed well and a fine product for its time, Ingres' Odalisque with Slave is brilliantly colorful and interesting.  

  • 7:00 AM

The Death of Sardanapulus

Eugene Delacroix, The Death Of Sardanapalus, 1827

I have never seen such a piece of both great chaos and pointed apathy. The last of the Assyrian rulers, Sardanapalus, sits atop his cushy, luxurious bed and orders the destruction of his material goods and servants. Having heard that he was soon to fall and be humiliated publicly, Sardanapalus decided to destroy everything rather than face his public.

The warm color palette contrasts the darkness of spilled blood from his harem of faithful concubines. But the real beauty and movement in the piece lies in the emotion and vignette style. Pioneering this technique, the dramatic lighting heightens the sense of urgency and chaos within the painting. The viewer is forced to look above at these god like figures killing and destroying the kings possessions in a hostile manner. Delacroix’s subject matter is not only foreign, but his style and means of delivering feeling in the piece is unmatched.

This piece truly exhibits Delacroix's passion for the oriental - an atypical but growingly popular style of the time. Greatly inspired by Napoleon's conquest of Egypt, the lavish clothing and exorbitant amount of wealth in the piece contrast daily life in France. Delacroix found Lord Byron's play Sardanapalus to be the great inspiration for the painting. Selected because Delacroix believed that people must not grant any sympathy to the ruling class because their losses are not limited to themselves. This painting resembles the reign of Napoleon, with a high-class lifestyle hurting all others below. This piece has two sides of emotion to it. At first, the chaos makes the viewer feel all the terror and pain, but then they see Sardanapalus on his bed, calm as can be, and the viewer is confused. For me, even disturbed. What kind of person can watch everything they have, everything they love, be destroyed and just lay there?

  • 7:00 AM

Vow of Louis XIII

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Vow of Louis XIII, 1824

If this isn't divine right, I don't know what is. For Ingres, Vow of Louis XII was a turning point to becoming a super credible artist. This piece forced Ingres into the limelight, and into the view of prominent Frenchmen. Ingres had a classy way of getting the fame he so desired. Not only did he appeal to nobility by making them look good, but he appealed to the public because he incorporated themes, like religion, that many were interested in seeing. In particular, this piece made nobility swoon. I mean, who wouldn't want to be lead by someone who adorns the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus with gifts? I know I think that sounds like a pretty cool leader. It makes him seem super-legit.

The physical aspects of the painting are none too shabby either. The layout of the painting is extremely well done. Although the curtains sort of come out of no where, they perfectly frame Mary and Jesus, and form somewhat of a triangle, symbolizing the Holy Trinity. The gold rings that come down from heaven also form an additional framing of Mary and Jesus, further distancing them from the ordinary dullness of Earth. Ingres does a good job of making Louis XIII look good, but not too good. Ingres painted Louis in royal garb, but not overly flamboyant attire, as not to draw attention away from heaven.

Ingres created a perfect balance of humbleness and grace in Vow of Louis XIII which not only captured the attention of royalty, but of audiences everywhere.

  • 7:00 AM

Christ

Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, Christ, 1834

Oh. My. Dad. I am done. 

Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, wildly known for his neo-classical portraits, also considers himself to be a historical painter. In this particular painting, he set Jesus in a totally sassy manor. His holy sassiness lets a high school art history student to apply their own modern Youtube jokes.

Ingres mainly painted religious figures when he was commissioned to paint for the Neo-Gothic chapel of Neuilly. During this period he painted other religious paintings like Jesus Among the Doctors. He painted a similar portrait of The Virgin Mary, where it is encased in the same oval frame. The difference is that The Virgin Mary has more background within the painting. Compositionally, the painting has a lot of merit. For a rather modest painting (80 x 60 cm) Jesus takes up the majority of the canvas without getting disproportionate.  

Jesus ain't got time for that. 


  • 7:00 AM

Napoleon on His Imperial Throne

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Napoleon On His Imperial Throne, 1806

Looking regal as ever, Napoleon is covered from head-to-toe in abundant robes, tassels, embroidery, and furs. The portrait shows the newly self-appointed emperor on the day of his coronation, in the moment that he sat upon his throne for the first time as Emperor. He resembles Jupiter in Ingres’ Jupiter and Thetis, where both men radiate patriarchal dominance, although Napoleon is slightly more overdressed.

On his head sits a gold leaf crown, much like the one worn by Julius Caesar. At his feet lays an eagle, or rather, the French Imperial Eagle chosen by Napoleon himself as the symbol of the French Army.
  In his hands he holds the scepter of Charlemagne and the Hand of Justice.  He looks as a leader should -- powerful, stationary, firm, exquisite.  But something seems off. Napoleon does not command the respect and authority that the portrait intends him to. 

No, Napoleon looks less like a Roman god or emperor and more like a boy playing dress up. His gaunt face looks flat, bored.  The small features and stony eyes don’t quite match up to the extravagance of the rest of the painting. His expression would look more at home at a funeral than on a gilded throne.  The robes, the crown, and the lace overwhelm him. I do not see a powerful man in this picture. I see a man who just now realized what he has gotten himself into. Everything about this seems to show authority, power, and fortune, except Napoleon who seems to be thinking something along the lines of, “I have got to get out of these tassels.”

But the funny thing is, Napoleon never sat for this painting.  Ingres had been chosen, along with five other artists, to paint portraits of Napoleon to be distributed to French towns. Perhaps Napoleon felt he was above sitting for portraits, or perhaps he had bigger things to deal with. But Ingres painted him with all the finery and pizzazz any French provincial peasant could have imagined. This portrait would not exactly convey a strong sense of faith in the new emperor.

France had just experienced the horrors of Revolution and Robespierre and Napoleon was supposed to be the hero to save and secure her. This picture is a far step from military leader Napoleon, who at least looked confident enough to instill hope and faith into the French people. But this new Napoleon? Will he carry France upon his padded shoulders? Will he rule with an ornately gloved hand? Will he pave the way for a New France with his delicate silk slippers?

  • 7:00 AM

Cornelia, Mother of the Gracchi, Pointing to her Children as her Treasures

Angelica Kauffman, Cornelia, Mother of the Gracchi, Pointing to her Children as her Treasures, 1785

Cornelia loves her children. She wants for them to become heroes like their father, Punic War veteran Scipio Africanus. So indicates the history associated with this painting, as Cornelia devoted her life to raising her sons to become successful politicians. The artist Angelica Kauffman captures Cornelia at a point of philosophical triumph. While the woman on the right clutches her jewels in surprise her friend's indifference to them, Cornelia indicates her children, Gaius and Tiberius, as her worldly treasures, choosing love over materialism. She even wears simpler clothing than the other colorfully-garbed woman, constituting more symbolism.

The painting has a heartening warmth of subject and color and delicately understated emotions, making it graceful and immediately appealing to the eye. Kauffman, a popular portaitist, also worked to paint royal and noble families, so she had practice implementing many of the details displayed above, like family resemblances and stately, impressive poses (Cornelia as Mary, anyone?). Neoclassical nuances include the plain background, deliberate pyramid shape in composition, the clearly Roman subject matter, and fable-like moral.

Kauffman, one of the rare successful female artists of her time, painted this scene in Britain, between the American and French revolutions and during the Industrial Revolution. New industry in cities put farms out of work, leading to an influx of citizens into urban areas. Crime increased with a higher concentration of people, and families became less tightly joined as their members, including women, went to work long hours at different jobs to sustain themselves. This led not only to less emphasis on marriage but thereby less on childbirth and care, which women could not do while working 14-hour factory shifts.  With the country in the throes of moral turmoil, Kauffman painted a portrait illustrating family values and their own simple nobility.

Another interesting aspect of the painting is the implications of putting peoples' needs over most material gain. Perhaps, in a way, this ties back to the tenets of the utilitarian movement arising in Britain at the time. Utilitarian writers influenced government with the philosophy of making decisions to benefit the greatest number of people, maximizing utility and happiness. Kauffman tells viewers to value other people and their needs above their own, as others' successes will bring make them happy as well. Furthermore, Cornelia historically raised her sons to be successful populist politicians, especially famous for their land distribution policies. Utilitarians also called for preventive measures such as a police force to encourage people to remember their morals. Her painting is similarly a preventive measure against the declining moral character of the British citizenry and a gentle reminder to love and value family above all else.

  • 7:00 AM

The Grand Odalisque


Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, The Grand Odalisque, 1814

As European empires continued to expanded their territories through the 19th century, the African and Asian countries that once were only seen by the most adventurous explorers, such as Marco Polo, were gradually unveiled, and provided the Europeans endless fascination. The legends and tales about far-off lands and people provided Europeans with wild and exotic images about those mysterious terrains. Artists like Ingres captured those popular imaginations on their canvas. Here, Ingres presented his French fellowmen an invitation to the mysterious, licentious world to the east.

Commissioned by Napoleon's sister Queen Caroline Murat of Naples, (unfortunately she was no longer the Queen when the painting was finished), The Grand Odalisque depicts a concubine in the harem, surrounded by oriental settings, in a pose that reminds me of Titian's Venus of Urbino. It's hard for me to understand how her left leg connects to her pelvis. However, her elongated, voluptuous body nevertheless is of great sensuality. And her cold, distant yet inviting facial expression arouses just the right amount of excitement; she acknowledges the presence of the voyeur, yet only offering a restrained temptation. In a sense, it almost seems like the Orient invites the European to come to their world, which is understood by Europeans as with force. But one has to understand it's an European interpretation of the Eastern world. Several other Ingres's work, such as The Turkish Bath, present a similar theme. In a way, these images of sexually promiscuous women lure Europeans to conquer and march into their bedrooms; at the same time, they help justify colonial expansion in that such immoral culture needs Western guidance. After all, when looking at this painting, who would say no to her invitation?

  • 7:00 AM