La Grande Odalisque

7:00 AM

Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, La Grande Odalisque, 1814
By ELIZABETH ELLIS

Dear Mom,

This year I'm gifting you with La Grande Odalisque by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres. I'll never forget seeing the work in the Louvre with you and how you proclaimed it your favorite. At the time, I thought the painting was good, unremarkable, but good. It just couldn't compare to the rest of the magnificent pieces of featuring Napoleon that lined the gallery, bright reds, wild horses, and bold detailing.

Looking back on it now, I can see why you would have liked it. Her demure gaze remarks upon your entrance into her room while also dismissing you in a single glance, daring you to criticize her nudity. She is a proud woman with her hair swept off of her slim neck, the sumptuous furs, feather fan, and thick curtains that shine, even as she shows her weaknesses: the soft curve of her back as she uses her elbow to get up and the delicate touch and shadows of her feet. She is the ultimate dichotomy of a woman, both powerful and gentle at the same time.

And finally, just so you know, an odalisque is the word for a concubine in French. I've chosen to give you this painting to put up in the living room so that whenever relatives come over, we have something to talk about that's not politics or my college search.

Your loving daughter, 


Elizabeth     

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