Odalisque is a woman who served in a harem. Despite the fact that she occasionally performed the function of a concubine, her status was lower, since she was primarily a attendant for wealthy gentlemen.
The unusual mysterious life of the East keeps a huge number of unique features and traditions. The harem is no exception, that is, part of the palace or house where the wives of Muslim rulers lived. Odalisque is one of the inhabitants of the harem (girl, woman), who was a servant for the masters, although at the same time she often played the role of a concubine.
What did the odalisque do
Translated from Turkish, "odalisque" means "room girl", which directly indicates the type of her duties - household, domestic service. Odalisques performed tasks and were subordinate exclusively to the female part of the nobility of the harem, that is, to those who were closest to the sultan (mother, sisters, wives). Amazingly, the clothes of these oriental slaves did not differ in gloss, showiness, beauty, and were about the same as that of the male working staff of the harem. Odalisques occupied the lowest level in the hierarchy of the harem, had no rights and could not declare themselves, however, opportunities were still open for them to take a higher position. If the odalisque was distinguished by the presence of talents in any entertaining field, for example, she could charmingly sing, dance perfectly, or even possessed several unique abilities at once, for her there were prospects of becoming the wife of the Sultan, in this situation and her desire, she studied so that become a concubine. This was especially true of those servants who managed to win his sympathy and even the love of the Sultan, such a situation was not uncommon in their living conditions. It is noteworthy that the system of relations in the harem was not depraved, according to Eastern laws everything in it was strict and clear, therefore it is incorrect to call odalisques prostitutes.
Odalisque in art
For European society of the late 18th - early 19th centuries. the oriental way of life, in particular, the harem lifestyle was incomprehensible, mysterious, unexplored, but this aroused great curiosity, therefore, the flight of fantasy and imagination allowed Europeans to misinterpret the concept of odalisque and identify it with a concubine in literary novels, and in painting, thanks to an erroneous representation, formed the direction of "orientalism", in which the odalisques were portrayed in a completely different way than it was in reality. Orientalist artists painted odalisques naked or half-naked in a typical harem setting; in the paintings they depicted hookahs, pillows, and carpets. The oriental slave on such canvases usually lay on her side or performed a belly dance in front of the sultan in an erotic setting.