Some parallels lie between the works below, with the major themes being: nudity, brothels, colonialism, distortion, and space. See more below.
Ingres’ painting, left, Grande Odalisque or Une Odalisque, caused controversial amongst the academy. He was breaking with neo-classicism and his mentor, David, by painting a nude who was human. (From the Renaissance on, nudes were painted only of mythological gods). Further, the nude depicts a prostitute in a oriental harem served up in accordance with French fantasy. The final break from neo-classicism was Ingres’s disregard of human anatomy since he purposefully elongated the nude’s torso, actually giving her five extra vertebrae (the National Institutes of Health actually measured this! It was previously thought to be two or three extra). People have also remarked on the cool expression of the nude and the emphasis on her flesh. Now we come to Les Demoiselles d’Avignon by Picasso, right. Like Odalisque, who is crowded into her harem, these women are crowded into a brothel. And like her, their limbs have been distorted, marking Picasso’s jump into Cubism. Odalisque is sensual; they are sensual and carnal. Also notice the similar position with arm bent and the curtains in both works, which either are drawn apart to reveal a spectacle or which the object of the spectacle is pulling toward herself to cover up. I always thought of the Demoiseslles as standing against a background but this picture could also be a birds eye view, showing them lying on a bed with angular white sheets. Odalisque was an example of French fascination with Orientalism, looking at a conquered population. Les Demoiselles shifts from a conquered Middle East to a conquered Africa. Ingres uses symbols of the orient (fan, headdress), while Picasso uses African masks as symbols of the country, evoking their rituals, art, “the other”, and the domination of the other. Curiously, both images also superimpose an exotic sensuality (for Ingres, the orient, which is Middle East here; for Picasso, Africa and also Iberia since one of the nudes has an Iberian face), yet all with pale European skin, perhaps suggesting a dichotomy between these civilizations in terms of their identity and sexuality.