tagNon-Erotic PoetryIngres' La Grande Odalisque

Ingres' La Grande Odalisque

bylegerdemer©

The look she cast over her naked shoulder,
the long expanse of smooth alabaster skin.
The knowing painter's eye examines ever deeper,
while I would hardly know where to begin.

The elongated supple spine and velvet skin
invite the gentle touch of ling'ring fingertips.
And yet her gaze denies the hithering
and holds voyeurs at bay with pouting lips.

What calculus did Ingres make
to paint the brimming passion chilled,
the smothered heat? The cool eyes slake
the yearning first aroused, then stilled.




Author's note: This was written in response to a challenge by greenmountaineer to write a poem inspired by erotic art. La Grande Odalisque, painted by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres in 1814, immediately came to mind. On reading about the painting, I learned that Ingres was criticized as soon as it was exhibited for overly elongating the model's back (the model was Napoleon Bonaparte's sister Caroline, Queen of Naples). In 2004, a study measured live models and found that the length of her back is about five vertebrae longer than a normal human female's, and suggested that the painter intended this to indicate her aloofness (Maigne, Chettellier, and Norloff, 2004, Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine). This does not detract one iota from the sensuality and eroticism of the painting, though it was rather interesting.

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