Museoteca - The turkish bath, Ingres, Jean-Auguste-Dominique
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Work information

Title: The turkish bath
Artist: Ingres, Jean-Auguste-Dominique
Technique: Oil on canvas

Dozens of nude Turkish women are sitting or lying on sofas in various poses, in an Oriental interior which is arranged around a pool. Many of these bathers have just emerged from the water and are stretching themselves or dozing off; others are chatting or drinking coffee. In the background a woman is dancing, while in the foreground another, with her back toward us, is playing music on a sort of lute. The main element of eroticism in the painting focuses on two women, one of whom is caressing the breast of another sitting next to her. This picture, dating from 1862, thus combines two subjects which had been close to Ingres's heart for more than fifty years: the nude and the Orient.

It was Prince Napoleon who commissioned this harem scene from Ingres around 1848. The painting was delivered in 1859, but then returned soon afterwards because it had shocked the empress. The painter continued to rework his picture until 1863, even after he had dated it 1862. It was only finally revealed to the wider public in 1905, on the occasion of the Ingres retrospective at the Salon d'Automne, and here it excited the most avant-garde painters such as Picasso. It was the masterpiece of Ingres's later years, as audacious in its subject as it was in its style.

The Turkish Bath is the outcome of Ingres's long experimentation in art and a synthesis of his drawings and paintings on the theme of the Turkish woman bathing, which he had produced since 1807. In fact, he takes figures from previous pictures, in particular The Valpinçon Bather (Musée du Louvre) in which we see a woman with her back toward us, but in the present picture she is placed in the foreground with a musical instrument. None of the nudes was created using a live model. In this composition, two main groups of figures are assembled within a deep but undefined space. The foreground is dominated by the interplay of arabesques at the expense of anatomical precision and any effect of depth. However, there is great harmony in the composition, with even the frame following the curves of the painting (Ingres chose a circular or tondo frame, as seen on certain pictures by Raphael, who was his great hero). He has also portrayed his subject in a cold, filtered light, which tones down the relief of the figures, allowing line to predominate

Source: Musèe du Louvre

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