Chelsea Berry

It is commonly known that painter Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres was very fond of emulating and extracting elements and ideas from the old masters. Because mastering the male nude was the conventional way of learning to paint as well as demonstrating your skill as a painter in The Davidian School ( Jacques-Louis David’s school of painters), it was much more commonly portrayed in paintings than nude women were. However, Ingres was very fond of portraying nude women and while incorporating his own style, extracted elements from Titian’s classic female nude as seen in Venus of Urbino (1538) (Fig. 6) while painting some of his most famous works such as The Turkish Bath (Louvre, Paris, 1863)(Fig. 1) While he was strongly influenced by the old masters, he was also inspired by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu’s ‘Selected Letter’s’ which described in immense detail what it was like inside a Turkish bath. Along with emulating the old masters, it was very characteristic of Ingres to repeat his work until perfection. For example, he created many paintings involving the woman in Valpinçon Bather, (Louvre, Paris, 1806) (Fig. 2), which was lastly found in The Turkish Bath (Fig. 1). Ingres extracted his own personal trademarks, Lady Montagu’s letters,  along with Titians portrayal of the female nude to ultimately assemble his own masterpiece.

Jean-Auguste Dominique Ingres liked to think of himself as a historical painter, and to this day he is mainly categorized in the Neoclassical genre. Ingres grew up in France in a very artistically influenced household with his father being a sculptor and a landscape artist. Naturally gifted and a hard worker, he won the Prix de Rome (a five year grant to study in Rome for painters) in 1801. While studying in Rome, Ingres took up a fascination with portraying the female nude. This was peculiar at the time because most painters in the Davidian School (Jacques-Louis David’s studio of painters) prided themselves on mastering the académie, which was the male nude form. By rejecting the académie, this was Ingres’s chance to break apart from the other artists of the time, and create his own original work. Nevertheless, it was more than just the female nude that intrigued him: it was the female bather. His concentration with the Turkish Bather began with his famous painting, The Valpincon Bather in 1808. (Fig.2) But instead of displaying her body and face, Ingres portrays this nude woman in a very unique manner by having her back to the viewer. Her hair is wrapped in a white turban spotted with flowers. Drapery and soft fluffy blankets surround her as she sits hunched over looking off in the distance to the right.


Figure 1. Figure 2. Figure 3.
Figure 4. Figure 5. Figure 6.
Ingres, The Turkish Bath