Ladies of the Louvre

Paintings by French neo-classical artist Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780-1867) are on display both in the Louvre and in the Musée d’Orsay, across the river.

My first photo (above) shows a painting by Ingres from the year 1862 called Le bain turc (The Turkish Bath). It is in the Louvre in room 940 on the second floor of the Sully wing.

L’odalisque by François Boucher

L’odalisque by François Boucher (1703-1770) is another example of ‘orientalism’. The label by this painting speaks of “a delicious eroticism of the boudoir” and speculates that the model might have been the artist’s wife. It goes on to say that “the immodest spectacle of the body abandoned in the disorder of the sheets confers a deliberately licentious character” to the painting.

The word odalisque originally meant a chambermaid (in Turkish), but in French in the 18th and 19th centuries it usually meant a concubine in a harem.

Jeune fille en buste by Guérin

The painting Jeune fille en buste by Baron Pierre-Narcisse Guérin (1774-1833) is also on the second floor of the Sully wing. Her short hair style, which wouldn’t seem out of place in 21st century Paris, was known in the 19th as “à la Titus”. It was inspired by Roman Antiquity and came into fashion in France during and after the French Revolution, in contrast to the elaborate hair styles of the Old Regime.

Mona Lisa (La Jaconde) and friends

Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa is a small painting that always used to be beleaguered by hundreds of people, so it was hard to get a good look at her. I understand that now, because of the pandemic, her room in the Louvre (called the Salle des États) has been rearranged so that visitors enter and exit by separate doors. Social distancing and one-way traffic are enforced by guards, who presumably also encourage people to keep moving.

Location and aerial view of the Louvre on

My photos in this post are from 2008. I revised the text in 2021.

See more posts on the Louvre in Paris.

10 thoughts on “Ladies of the Louvre”

  1. Lovely collection of the female portraits in the Louvre! Call it celebratory or objectifying, such portraits of women nude do showcase the natural, almost raw, insight into the female body, as well as the gaze of whoever regards them. Mona Lisa had been impossible to capture the two times I visited the Louvre (pre-COVID, of course), and it’s great that due to the pandemic, the room’s been rearranged to allow an unobstructed view of the small painting– if only the museum thought about doing so prior to COVID!

    1. Recently I read an article giving an overview of Objectification Theory: .
      Although the article did not mention art museums, it did get me started wondering about the topic, since women in paintings and sculptures are much more likely to be nude than men. But I’m not at all sure what effect this might have, considering that cultural standards for women’s appearance have evolved over the centuries. The first two photos in this blog post, for example, are from the 19th and 18th centuries, and would be unlikely to trigger eating disorders among women who look at them today. (My lead photo even shows a girl looking at the painting by Ingres.)

      1. Women have constantly been objectified in art since art became a thing in human history. While certain feminists interpret it as degrading, others find it celebratory to the female body. I personally have to examine the context of the work itself, but overall, I find such nude paintings of women a more-positive experience.

  2. We were in Paris for a month in 2019 (the good old days) and on a rainy day, looking for something free, we headed to the Petit Palais and there just happened to be a temporary Ingres exhibit open with the regular collection at the time. Paris is so much fun that way.

  3. In college there was a Modern Painting class in Art History – the first semester was painters such as Ingres. My roommate took this class and told me about it. So when I flunked German, I took the second semester which started with Delacroix and went through the Impressionists and through Picasso and up to Pollock and Warhol. It was one of the most useful courses that I took.

    1. This does sound like an interesting course, although it must have been something of a rush to get from Delacroix to Warhol in one semester.

  4. The haircut came about as the result of the 1791 revival of Voltaire’s ‘Brutus’, a play about Titus and the Tarquinian Conspiracy. The actors appeared with Roman haircuts and days later a trend had taken hold in Paris (Adolphe Jullien, Histoire du costume au Théâtre, Paris, 1880). It is also said that it originates in the way hair was shorn prior to execution in the Terror (plausible) or that a short haircut was a way of proclaiming your (aristocratic) allegiance to the ancien regime (slightly shaky, I think). The actor François-Joseph Talma was the star of the ‘Brutus’ production. After the Revolution he started the trend for productions in authentic period costume rather than contemporary wardrobe which had previously been the norm. So it’s quite interesting that a move back to ‘period’ authenticity should spark a fashion trend…

    1. Voltaire appeared as a silent character in the Baden-Baden production of the opera “Adriana Lecouvreur” by Francesco Cilea.
      In real life, the actress Adriana Lecouvreur had starred in at least three of Voltaire’s plays at the Comédie Française in the 1720s. He claimed to have been her lover, but their degree of intimacy remains unclear. In any case, he was at her bedside when she died (probably not of poisoned violets) on March 20, 1730 at age 37. (
      She was also meant to have played the female lead in “Brutus”, but her death came during the rehearsals.
      I never knew that “Brutus” was revived in 1791, during the revolution, much less that it started a new fashion trend.

  5. Yes – interesting to compare that Odalisque with the (probably) better-known Boucher in the Alte Pinakothek, Munich. The Munich one is generally agreed to be Marie-Louise Murphy, a mistress of Louis XV and Boucher’s model. Same pose, different angle, different girl.çois_Boucher_(1753)_-_Alte_Pinakothek_-_Munich_-_Germany_2017_(crop).jpg

I appreciate your feedback!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.