Suzanne Valadon (1867-1938) The Blue Room (Odalisque) 1923
Valadon was interested in shaking up preconceived ideas.
Here is a tough odalisque, perhaps more interested in smoking cigarettes and reading than in luring a male companion.
Odalisque comes from a Turkish suffix expressing a function, sort of as English “er” or “ary” might when added to a noun. And oda is a room, here a chamber in a harem.
The odalisque traditionally refers to the female slave or servant in the harem of a Turkish sultan. The term was adopted during the 19th century by academic Europe as a form of artistic eroticism in orientalism.
Photo: Suzanne Valadon
In an interesting twist, Turkish writer Melek Hanum (Hanim) [1814-1873] used the word odalisque referring to a slave as she wrote: “If any lady possesses a pretty-looking slave, the fact soon gets known.
The gentlemen who wish to buy an odalisque for a wife, make their offers. Many Turks, indeed, prefer to take a slave as a wife, as, in such case, there is no need to dread fathers, mothers, or brothers-in-law, and other undesirable relations.”