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“The Turkish Bath” by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres

Le Bain Turc, by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, from C2RMF retouched

“The Turkish Bath” by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres depicts a group of nude women in the bath of a harem and is painted in a highly erotic style. Ingres has successfully evoked the form of both the Near East and earlier western styles associated with mythological subject matter. Painted originally in a rectangular format, Ingres altered the painting by cutting the picture to its present tondo form. Fortunately, photographs of the art in its original size have survived.

Its erotic content did not provoke a scandal during Ingres time as it remained in private collections for most its existence until it moved to The Louvre. It may be based on a 1717 written description of a Turkish harem by Lady Mary Montagu, where she mentions having viewed some two hundred nude women.

The painting builds on many motifs and figures Ingres had explored in earlier pictures, in particular, “The Valpinçon Bather and “Grande Odalisque”.  Ingres returned to the form of “The Valpinçon Bather” a number of times in his life. Most famously in “The Turkish Bath” where the central character in the foreground playing a mandolin echoes in rhythm and tone this figure of the “The Valpinçon Bather”. The Turkish Bath was the last of his Orientalist paintings of the female nude and was finished when Ingres was 82 years old.  Ingres enjoyed the irony of producing an erotic work in his old age, painting an inscription of his age, AETATIS LXXXII, on the work. He did not paint this work from live models, but reusing ‘bather’ and ‘odalisque’ figures he had drawn or painted as single figures on beds or beside a bath.

Ingres was a French Neoclassical painter who thought of himself as a painter of history and who today is highly regarded for his many portraits. Critics often found his style bizarre and archaic, his expressive distortions of form and space make him an important precursor of modern art,  and his work influenced Picasso and Matisse and other modernists.

Essential Facts:

    • Title:                The Turkish Bath
    • French:            Le Bain Turc
    • Artist:              Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres
    • Created:          1862
    • Media:             Oil on canvas
    • Dimensions:   108 × 110 cm (42.5 × 43.3 in)
    • Museum:         The Louvre

Artist:

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“The greatest deception men suffer is from their own opinions.” Leonardo da Vinci

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Photo Credit 1)Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons