A study for the reclining woman in L'Odalisque l'Esclave at the Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, painted for Ingres' friend Marcotte d'Argenteuil in Rome in 1839. In 1842 Ingres painted another version, now in the Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore, for Prince William I of Wrttemberg. The two paintings are almost identical except for the landscape in the backgound of the latter, which was executed by Paul Flandrin.
The subject of the female nude, depicted as bathers, odalisques or nymphs, played a major role throughout the artist's career. The prototype of the reclining female nude, as in the present drawing, is the famous Dormeuse de Naples, now lost, painted around 1808 for Queen Caroline Murat, G. Vigne, Dessins d'Ingres, Paris, 1995, p. 401, illustrated. In 1814 Ingres painted the Grande Odalisque, now in the Louvre, in 1826 the L'Odalisque l'Esclave in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, and in 1839 followed The Odalisque with the Slave, which the artist clearly based on the early Dormeuse de Naples.
The Bain Turc, Ingres late masterpiece from around 1860, is arguably the most complex treatment of the subject within the artist's oeuvre.
Two painted studies of a reclining woman, probably related to the lost painting of 1808, are in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, and in a private collection, Paris; the whereabouts of a third study are unknown, G. Wildenstein, The Paintings of J.-A.-D. Ingres, London, 1954, nos. 35-7.
The present drawing, which precisely matches the figure in the painting, is closely related to a pencil study by Ingres in the Muse Ingres, Montauban, G. Vigne, op.cit., fig. 2291. Another study from Montauban shows a sketch of the whole composition and is inscribed with the name and address of Ingres' Parisian model. In his paintings and studies of this figure type, Ingres was particularly interested in exploiting the various possible positions of the right arm (either behind the head or outstretched) and the right leg (outstretched, as in Jupiter and Antiope, Louvre, or bent). In the present drawing the right knee is slightly bent forward, again closely following the early painting from 1808.
The Odalisque with the Slave was one of Ingres' paintings exhibited at the exposition universelle in 1855 and proved to be a great success.