Reclining Odalisque

Roger FentonReclining Odalisque is among the quietest pictures in the series. Unlike his other orientalist scenes, this one has 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 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 male imagination.
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