Ever since downloading images came up to speed, I have started collecting art. Virtually, that is. My largest and most favourite folder is ‘Women on a bed and other odalisques’. The world is full of the most amazing reclining women, in various states of dress or undress.
I think the first of the naked beauties was probably Giorgione’s Venus from 1508. He died when he was still working on it, so it was finished by his student Titian. Apparently Titian was inspired by it, ’cause he turned out a couple more – so many in fact that museums all over the world have his naked ladies lying around. The most famous one is at the Uffizi: the Venus of Urbino from c 1535. Rumour has it that it was owned for a while by a cardinal at the Vatican, who kept it behind a curtain. (Go figure what he did. Go figure what she is doing, by the way!)
That painting, in turn, has served as an endless inspiration to artists and still does, so here are a few examples. I’ll be showing you more women on beds every now and again.
Giorgione’s Venus. In a landscape, eyes closed. She might be naked, but she is keeping us at a considerable distance. But that was about to change:
The Venus of Urbino. There aren’t many facts known about this painting, but there’s an abundance of presumptions. For instance, that the Duke of Urbino saw it in Titian’s studio and insisted on buying it. Well, she’s way more inviting and seductive than her predecessor, can you blame him?
Eugène Delacroix, 1827. The Romantic era (and Delacroix was the “prince of the Romantics”) was steeped in longing for the East. In the East there were harems and in harems there were naked women, so they made a comeback in art, this time in the form of odalisques.
Olympia by Édouard Manet, 1863. Shock! Horror! That gaze! That nudity! The conservative Salon, the art world’s big shots, had yet another coronary. The model is Victorine Meurent, a Parisian prostitute – they probably recognised her.
Paul Delvaux, 1951. “Iron Age”. The Belgian surrealist, who painted countless nudes in odd backgrounds, with trains, stations, squares, factories.
And finally, Paul de Nooijers Odalisque. I’ve had this image in my ‘collection’ for years and I cannot for the life of me find anything about it online. He did make this, didn’t he? Surely it’s by him? It has to be. Paul de Nooijer is a Dutch photographer, who mostly works together with his son Menno. Staged photography, very interesting.