Odalisques blog

The Female Slave Market in Constantinople (1 Mar)
From the slave market to the sultan's bedchamber (17 Feb)
Buying a new slave for your harem (4 Feb)
Odalisquian books list now on Odalisques.com (29 Jan)
Edward Lane's descriptions and drawings of female clothing (27 Jan)
more posts...


"The Arab Scribe" by J.F. Lewis, 1852
"The Bath" by J.L. Gerome, in the Legion of Honor, San Francisco
"Odalisque" by Max Nonnenbruch
"By order of the sultan" by Antonio Fabres
"Idle Moments" by Frederick Arthur Bridgman, 1875
more pictures...


more books...

© Tanos

Odalisquian thoughts

Posted by Tanos on Thu 20 Sep 12, 12:03 AM

I've been looking through some of the things I've written about Orientalism and paintings of odalisques in particular. This is a thread going right back to my first BDSM homepage in 1997, where I displayed this image of the "Grande Odalisque" and said: "The picture below, La Grande Odalisque, was painted in 1814 by the French painter, Ingres. By odalisque, Ingres meant a female slave in a harem, trained to serve her Master's pleasure, and assigned to sexual rather than domestic duties. Today there are many men and women who enjoy owning or being slaves. This site contains more material of this nature, but no pornographic images (unless you call the picture below pornographic.)"

Right from the start I've connected many of the themes in these paintings to impulses in the artists' minds that we would now refer to as BDSM. It's hard to look at Gerome's helpless, stripped slave being manhandled by a fully clothed buyer, or Eisenhut's equally naked pair of sexual slaves in stocks entitled "Before Punishment" without seeing them as sexual images where power is part of the attraction.

All this was a Western fantasy world of course, that only took its inspiration from the real world of the East, but this "Odalisquian" world did have a sort of consistency. In addition to helplessness, punishment for disobedience, bondage, and unequal nakedness, there are some more themes we could identify. For example, if we take another couple of paintings:

Odalisques cultivate their own beauty. They bathe, apply perfumes and makeup. They are aware all this will be for the pleasure of their master, and prepare themselves (or are prepared) carefully for each encounter. Harems are necessarily poly places - specifically polygynous with multiple women. They are numerically dominated by women but sexually and socially dominated by a man.

Reading back through things I've written in the past, I'm struck by how ideas like my Seven Pillars document from 2000 foreshadowed today's O&P Manifesto. But equally these inclusive spaces like O&P, my FetLife groups and even IC don't cultivate femininity in the way the M/f Yahoo groups I used to run could. We lose something if all we have is inclusion.

I think I'll start uploading more paintings :)

Edited Fri 7 Dec 12, 12:27 PM