Nasser Ovissi

Persian Odalisque, 1968

Image for Persian Odalisque, 1968

Multitalented, lawyer and diplomat Nasser Ovissi also studied fine art in Rome. This work’s title—Persian Odalisque—refers to the painting’s subject; an “odalisque” is a female slave who served the sultan’s wives and concubines. This choice of subject suggests Ovissi’s familiarity with the popularity of the motif in European Orientalist painting, which includes many well-known examples. Some of the most famous are Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres’s Grande Odalisque (1814; Louvre, Paris) and later examples by Auguste Renoir and Henri Matisse. Inspired by paintings from the Qajar period (1785–1925), traditional calligraphy, and hand-painted cloth, Ovissi sought a return to artistic traditions of the past. His earlier works fused Persian visual culture with Cubism. Persian Odalisque makes use of similar source material but employs a more fluid visual language. Ovissi isolates one verse of poetry from its original context, turning it into calligraphic exercises that appear throughout the canvas.

Medium Oil wash on canvas
Dimensions 28 1/2 x 36 1/2 in.
Credit Line Grey Art Gallery, New York University Art Collection
Donor Gift of Abby Weed Grey
Object ID  G1975.534

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Collection Years: 1968