His Most Famous Painting – The Turkish Bath – Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres

Renowned French artist, Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, better known as Ingres (born, 1780) was a self-proclaimed ‘History’ painter, ironically, better known for his portraits and ‘Romanticism.’ Though, he belonged to the ‘Neoclassic’ genre of painting, Jean’s innovative manner of expression and experimentation with space and forms earned him an important position as the predecessor of ‘Modern Art.’ Jean had mastered the art of pertinently delineating human forms, right from the finer facial expressions to the details of human anatomy. He painted one of his best-known works, “The Turkish Bath,” at the ripe age of 82. He apparently wished to convey his degrees of vitality and passion at that age, which matched those of young men.

Created in the year 1862, Jean Dominique’s “The Turkish Bath” is a 43″ X 43″ wood panel painting in oil medium, currently on display at the prestigious Louvre Museum in Paris. As is evident from the title, the theme of this erotic piece of work is centered on a scene at one of the Turkish Baths, which fundamentally were hot water baths or sauna divided into various phases, where two or more persons would collectively take the bath. Unlike his previous works, Jean Ausguste did not take the assistance of any live models for “The Turkish Bath,” instead he represented a collection of figures from his various other paintings featuring nude women in a harem, most of which were shown ready to take bath.

Most striking re-creation of figure is the central figure in the painting, whose back is shown facing the viewer, adapted from ‘The Bather of Valpinçon’ (1808). The upper torso of this figure is the replica of Valpinçon, whereas the legs are positioned as dangling from the edge of the bed in ‘The Bather of Valpinçon’ and as folded in “The Turkish Bath.” In all the other figures in the background, Ingres’ characteristic and deliberate distortions of proportions in human forms are clearly manifested. As the distance increases from the front facing the viewer towards the back of the room, the background keeps getting darker, with hordes of female figures in varying postures. Some of these women are depicted as treating the hair of their mistress, some drinking beverages, some posing in sensual manner, and others simply relaxing. Cooling is the final stage of sauna, after going through the hot chambers, washing the body with cold water, and taking the body massage. “The Turkish Bath” appears to be portraying the cooling or the relaxation phase of the sauna.

Since, the painting was throughout a part of private collections before being finally placed at Louvre, it remained insulated from public criticism on the account of its extremely provocative eroticism. Another, unique factor associated with this painting is that Ingres never visited Turkey and had never seen a Turkish Bath in reality, the painter’s rich imagination and master execution however, infused life in “The Turkish Bath.”