This is an important preparatory study for La Grande Odalisque, commissioned by the Queen of Naples, to hang in the royal palace as a pendant to La Dormeuse.

Recumbent female figures complement each other in the two paintings, facing different directions, with the sleeping nude viewed from the front and the odalisque (a harem slave girl) from behind. The quality of line itself and its use for expressive effect was the artist's artistic creed. Ingres placed the odalisque's left foot over the right leg and, in a graduated descent from the raised, watchful head, he created a sequence of pauses from hip to hand, through the left foot and on to the right, stretching the life-size body in a sequence of curves that evoked a shocked response at the Salon of 1819.

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