Ingres’ Turkish Baths summarize all the activities of the master in the nude genre. In this picture, Ingres quotes himself. The girl with the mandolin in the foreground is easily recognizable as “Walpinson’s Bather”, the figure with her arms thrown back on the right refers to “Odalisque and the Slave” (the blue embroidered pillow under her head is a tribute to Ingres’s favorite juxtaposition of a naked female body and rich patterned fabrics), and the pose of the dancing girl in the background on the left resembles Angelica being saved by Roger.
Ingres was inspired to create this painting by “Turkish Letters” – stories of Mary Montague, a writer, wife after Great Britain in Constantinople. She also describes her visit to the most famous women’s bath. It is very likely that Ingres depicted her in the figure with long blond hair on the right side of the canvas. But analogies to two women on the right, merged in a very sexual embrace, we are unlikely to find in Western painting. Researcher Kenneth Clarke believes that they date back to the sculpted temples of South India.
Background and shapes have reversed roles here. The color basis of the picture is the golden glow of naked bodies, and the green walls and floor, the red rug seem to be accents that only emphasize this basis.
The painting was originally painted on a square canvas. Ingres sent his “Turkish Baths” as a gift to the son of King Napoleon III, but they were returned – the heir’s wife found the picture too obscene. Then the artist cut the canvas in the shape of a circle, which is why he mercilessly “dealt with” the sleeping figure on the right, leaving only the head and arms, and on the left he added a black figure playing the tambourine. However, this hardly made the picture less sensual.
It seems that Ingres has recouped everything held back during his life, and throwing away any framework and limitations, he plunged into this maelstrom of bodies, thighs, breasts, into the hot heat of pampered women and hot vapors. Down with hints! What the imagination of the audience drew, looking at the open tap in the bathroom and the fallen shoe of the “Bather of Walpinson”, which they imagined, looking at the fan and feet of the “Big Odalisque”, where they were carried away by the tunes sounded in “Odalisque and the Slave”, all this Ingres placed in the “Turkish Baths”. The picture is so full of sweet languor and sensuality, the aromas of oriental incense, the sounds of mandolin and tambourine, that it even makes a stifling impression. It seems that there is an excess of voluptuousness, eroticism, heat and naked bodies …
To the general public, “Turkish Baths” were first shown only in 1905 at the Ingres retrospective. The painting has been in the Louvre since 1911. This painting is also unique in that in 1971 it was with her participation that the precedent of an “exhibition-dossier” was created, when a single painting becomes the center of the exposition, around which materials are located, one way or another related to it.
Year of painting: 1863.
Painting dimensions: 110 × 110 cm.
Writing technique: oil.
Genre: genre painting.
Gallery: Louvre, Paris, France.