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Reclining Venus

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Sleeping Venus by Giorgione, The Nude Maja by Goya, and Odalisque by Lefebvre

"A nude never descends the stairs - a nude reclines."
The Hanging Committee of the 1912 Salon des Indépendants exhibition in Paris, France

The Reclining Venus—alternatively known as odalisquenote  or simply Reclining Nude—is a Stock Pose in Western art depicting a woman reclining against a bed or couch, often in differing states of undress.

The implications of what is occurring in the image differs. Since admiration and idealization for the human form was common place in Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome, Classicists and their post-Renaissance successors preferred showing off the human body as a means of capturing the human form and all of its anatomical splendor. However, since much of history's remembered artists are men, Male Gaze is most definitely involved, the staging either implying the women are Ready for Lovemaking or are simply intimate enough with the artist that this would not be the first time they have been seen naked so causally. But make no mistake; It's Not Porn, It's Art.


While male depictions of the Reclining Venus do exist, since the paintings are universally recognized as Always Female, pop-culture usually plays gender-inversions of the trope as comedy.

Often times, the Reclining Venus position is associated, if not interchangeable, with "the Sleeping Nymph", a motif that began during The Renaissance involving a depiction of a woman (the eponymous "nymph") sleeping in a similar reclining position.

Can be considered a sister trope to Reclining Reigner and Sitting Sexy on a Piano. See other Art Subjects such as Death and the Maiden, Crucified Hero Shot and Nude Nature Dance. Related to Art Imitates Art and Life Imitates Art.



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  • Sleeping Venus, alternatively known as Dresden Venus, was painted by Italian Renaissance painter Giorgio Barbarelli da Castelfranco, and has inspired a number of copycats from paintings by Girolamo da Treviso to Titian, Valesquez and Cabanel. It is the first known reclining nude in Western painting, and together with the Pastoral Concert (Louvre), another painting disputed between Giorgione and fellow painter Tiziano Vecelli, it established "the genre of erotic mythological pastoral", with female nudes in a landscape, accompanied in that case by clothed males. A single nude woman in any position was an unusual subject for a large painting at the time, although it was to become popular for centuries afterwards, as "the reclining female nude" became a distinctive feature of Venetian painting.
  • La Maja Desnuda (translated to English as The Nude Maja) is an oil on canvas painting by the Spanish artist Francisco Goya. It portrays a nude woman reclining on a bed of pillows, and was probably commissioned by Manuel de Godoy, to hang in his private collection in a separate cabinet reserved for nude paintings. While the identity of the model is not known, it is often theorized that she is Josefa de Tudo, 1st Countess of Castillo Fiel, whom many believed to have been her mistress.
    • La maja vestida (translated to English as The Clothed Maja) is an imitation of La Maja Desnuda, also made by Goya, but with the model fully dressed.
  • Odalisque by French painter Jules Joseph Lefebvre is a painting of an unnamed female model painted by behind.
  • Grande Odalisque (alternatively referred to as Une Odalisque or La Grande Odalisque) by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres depicts a nude female model looking toward the viewer over her shoulder wearing a bonnet and holding a peacock feather-duster in her hand.
  • Odalisque with a Slave by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres was a painting commissioned by Charles Marcott. It depicts a nude odalisque, a musician, and a eunuch in a harem interior, and is considered a classic example of French Orientalist art.
  • Olympia by Impressionist Edouard Manet depicts a nude woman lying on a bed being brought flowers by a servant. Olympia was modeled by Victorine Meurent and Olympia's servant by the art model Laure.
  • I Like Olympia in Blackface by new realist and pop-artist Larry Rivers is an Art Imitates Art reimagining of Manet's Olympia involving both a three-dimensional depiction of Victorine Meurent and Laurie's characters from the original painting behind a black woman in a similar nude position and a red-skinned woman acting as her maid.

    Comic Strips 
  • Parodied in this 1864 cartoon where the viewers are being fed up with that year's oversaturation of nude women at the Salon de Paris.
  • A background image in The Far Side involving a pair of snake gunslingers had a painting of a long-lashed python on the wall behind the bar.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Titanic (1997), the odalisque position is evoked when Rose asks Jack to draw her a nude portrait while wearing nothing but her blue diamond necklace, Rose reclining on the couch.

  • In the Discworld, this is discussed and taken Up to Eleven as a comment on the foibles of the art and cultural world. The Royal Art Gallery has an impressive collection of female nudes, for instance, both in art and statuary, and it is noted that the carpet in front of them is worn down to the underlay by the sheer pressure of visiting crowds, who are unaccountably disinterested in landscapes or still lives that don't feature female nudes. A Snark Knight notes that if it doesn't have a strategically placed urn or a length of gauze in the picture, it is therefore Pornography but if it does, it is elevated to Art. There is also an amateur art group, the Ankh-Morpork Fine Art Appreciation Society, who regularly attend classes to appreciate the female nude; some members even remember to sharpen their pencils or to dip the brush into the paint occasionally.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Step by Step, "What's Wrong with this Picture?": Dana is asked to pose for feminist abstract artist Jayne McNeil. Feeling honored, Dana accepts. Jayne then asks her to pose nude. Convinced that the painting will be abstract and she won't be recognizable, Dana agrees. She later invites her family to the charity auction where the painting will be unveiled. Unbeknownst to Dana, Jayne decided to switch to photo-realism. Dana, portrayed half sitting, half lying nude on a sofa, is very recognizable. The painting itself is only shown in an Unreveal Angle. See here.
  • Murdoch Mysteries, "This One Goes to Eleven": Mrs. Sally Pendrick is being portrayed in an "odalisque" pose, lying completely naked on a sofa by the pool in her and her husband's residence. Detective Murdoch is quite embarrassed to run into her being painted like that. The painting is done in a modern, non-representational style with geometric figures in primary colours (very much a proto-Cubist style). Constable Crabtree believes it represents a pyramid, but Dr. Julia Ogden clearly sees it's "a woman in a rather intimate pose".
  • Parodied in the Saturday Night Live Digital Short "Everyone's a Critic", when Andy Samberg and Paul Rudd paint nude portraits of each other in the Reclining Venus position and try to sell them at an art auction. The only problem is that anyone who looks at the resulting work is driven to violent, suicidal hysteria if the internal hemorrhaging does not kill them first.
  • Columbo, "Double Exposure": In Dr. Keppel's motivational film about advertising, there is a shot of a half-lying, half-sitting model in a bikini.

    Video Games 
  • Red Dead Redemption II: The French painter and Gadfly Charles Chatenay produces a full exhibition of reclining nudes, male and female, which scandalizes his 19th-century southern American audience. A melee breaks out when they start recognizing their own relatives in the paintings.
    Woman: Couldn't you have painted some drawers on her?!

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Odalisque


"The Artist's Way" Part III

Charles Chatenay does a gallery show depicting various women in various states of undress. His progressive French artistic vision clashes rather violently with the sensibilities of Early 20th-century Americans.

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