With its collections of ancient, modern and contemporary art, the Musée de Grenoble offers you a chance to traverse the history of western painting from the 13th to the 20th centuries. Included are major masterpieces of classical Flemish, Dutch, Italian and Spanish painting; one of 20th century Europe’s richest collections; and all the great post-1945 contemporary art trends, right up to the most recent artworks of the 2000s.
In 1797, Ingres joined David’s studio. His earliest works were essentially portraits, painted in the kind of “cut and dry” style little appreciated by the critics. Little by little, throughout his life divided between Paris and Rome, Ingres earned growing acclaim with delicately modelled nudes, large historical and literary compositions, and portraits in which his sense of line achieved its peak. The artist preferred forms using drawing which, in the Head of the Great Odalisque, well illustrates his interest in the curve and counter-curve.
At the 1819 Salon, The Great Odalisque caused a scandal: it disconcerted and perplexed viewers through the arbitrary drawing of the woman’s body, the lack of consistency in her flesh, the flat look of her contours, and her elongated proportions. Ingres nevertheless used this subject several times, either in a reduced format or only depicting the head on a round canvas. This work is painted in a circle inscribed in the square of the canvas, with the round frame covering where the surface spills over.
The artist focused on how he rendered the flesh tints, fabric and jewels with the help of a palette dominated by subtle pink-beiges. The fine and painstaking stroke reminds us of his admiration for Renaissance painters, Raphael in particular. The impassive features of the face, seen in three-quarter profile, are brightly lit, with the right part remaining plunged in darkness. The turbaned hairstyle of the model and the presence of pearls lend this picture a note of discreet orientalism.
(Montauban, 1780 - Paris, 1867)
Head of the Great Odalisque, 1814
33 x 33,5 cm
© Musée de Grenoble