[Reclining Odalisque]

Artist: Roger Fenton (British, 1819–1869)

Date: 1858

Medium: Salted paper print from glass negative

Dimensions: 28.5 x 39 cm (11 1/4 x 15 3/8 in.)

Classification: Photographs

Credit Line: The Rubel Collection, Purchase, Lila Acheson Wallace, Anonymous, Joyce and Robert Menschel, Jennifer and Joseph Duke, and Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee Gifts, 1997

Accession Number: 1997.382.34

Not on view
Fenton made a series of photographs inspired by the Victorian vogue for the exotic trappings of empire, modeled on the harem scenes and odalisques of Eugène Delacroix and Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres that he had seen in Paris, and motivated by his desire to elevate the status of photography by tackling themes more frequently treated in painting.

"Reclining Odalisque" is among the quietest pictures in his series. There are no cowering slaves or leering sultans, no music or dancing, few stage props, no narrative tale. The odalisque is simply there, a vision floating in darkness: the exquisite embodiment of Victorian fascination with the exotic and the erotic. She lies languorously on dark pillows set on layers of carpet; she is barefoot but crowned with golden coins; she wears loose-fitting, patterned harem pants and a blouse fully unbuttoned to reveal a hint of bare breast below gossamer. She caresses an upturned goblet drum, a phallic darabukke inlaid with mother-of-pearl, and she looks at us from the shadows, subtly provocative in a way calculated to stir the Western imagination.

Roger Fenton's "grey albums"; (sold, Christie's, South Kensington, June 27, 1978, lot 279); [Sean Thackeray, San Francisco]; William Rubel, Santa Cruz, California; [Hans P. Kraus, Jr., Fine Photographs, New York]

Crocker Art Museum. "Masterworks of Photography from the Rubel Collection," January 9, 1982–February 21, 1982.

Achenbach Graphic Arts Council. "Masterworks of Photography from the Rubel Collection," January 1, 1984–February 1, 1984.

Hayward Gallery. "Roger Fenton, Photographer of the 1850s," February 4, 1988–April 17, 1988.

City Museum and Art Gallery. "Roger Fenton, Photographer of the 1850s," April 23, 1988–May 29, 1988.

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. "The Art of Photography 1839-1989," February 11, 1989–April 30, 1989.

Canberra. National Gallery of Australia. "The Art of Photography 1839-1989," June 17, 1989–August 27, 1989.

London. Royal Academy of Arts. "The Art of Photography 1839-1989," September 23, 1989–December 23, 1989.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Inventing a New Art: Early Photographs from the Rubel Collection in the Metropolitan Museum of Art," June 1, 1999–September 19, 1999.

National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. "All the Mighty World," October 17, 2004–January 2, 2005.

J. Paul Getty Museum. "All the Mighty World," February 1, 2005–April 25, 2005.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "All the Mighty World," May 24, 2005–August 29, 2005.

Tate Britain. "All the Mighty World," September 25, 2005–January 2, 2006.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Framing a Century: Master Photographers, 1840–1940," June 3, 2008–September 1, 2008.

Bernard, Bruce. The Sunday Times Book of Photodiscovery: A Century of Extraordinary Images 1840-1940. London: Thames & Hudson, 1980. pl. 61.

Thackrey, Sean. Masterworks of Photography from the Rubel Collection. Sacramento: Crocker Art Museum, 1982. pl. 19.

Lloyd, Valerie. Roger Fenton: Photographer of the 1850s. London: Hayward Gallery, 1988. no. no. 144.

Baldwin, Gordon. Roger Fenton: Pasha and Bayadere. Getty Museum Studies on Art. Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1996. no. 17.

Roger Fenton (55)