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Jean Pierre Sudre

(1783 Albi – 1866 Paris)

La Tête de l’Odalisque. Lithograph after Ingres. 49.4 x 49.4 cm. 1827. Béraldi XII, p. 63.

Ingres had been only moderately successful in exhibiting his Grande Odalisque at the Paris Salon of 1827. The painting done in Rome in 1814 was rejected by the general public and official art critics alike because of the proportions of the naked harem slave, which were felt to be unnatural and affected, and the provocative erotic charge of the portrayal. Today’s observers find it hard to understand that the ultimate in picturesque refinement and elegance of this masterpiece was evidently invisible to the artist’s contemporaries. Nevertheless, the painting exercised a powerful influence on 19th and 20th century French painting and left its mark in the vision of such Modernist luminaries as Matisse and Picasso (see exhibition catalogue Ingres. The Pursuit of Perfection, by P. Condon, M. B. Cohn and A. Mongan, Louisville – Fort Worth, 1983–84, p. 126ff).

Thie impact of Ingres’s creation is reflected by a series of graphic reproductions published as early as the 1820s. In 1826 Delpech published a small lithographed version. That same year the author of this print, Jean Pierre Sudre, created a large-format lithograph, for which Ingres had specially supplied a high-quality preliminary drawing. The graphic copy deviates from the painting in one detail in that Ingres supplemented the portrayal by adding a small still life in the foreground. Ingres must have appreciated the craftsmanlike skills of the lithographer Sudre, who came from Albi, a town not far from Ingres’ birthplace, Montauban. Like Ingres, Sudre was also a product of David’s studio, and having this point in common may have consolidated their relations, since the present lithograph, which only reproduces the head and shoulders of the odalisque in life size, was produced as early as 1827. The print has been executed in a refined and sophisticated technique that probably fully satisfied Ingres’ quality standards. The flesh tints have been modelled softly and sensitively with subtle, dense hatching patterns. In a broader style, the material of the oriental headdress has been elaborately rendered in a way that makes it almost palpable. The naked, softly rounded shoulders and the melancholy, sensuous gaze of the young woman radiate a latent erotic attraction irresistible to the modern observer.

A superb, nuanced impression, printed on the full sheet. Minor ageing and foxing, otherwise in perfect condition.

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