Odalisques blog

The Female Slave Market in Constantinople (1 Mar)
From the slave market to the sultan's bedchamber (17 Feb)
Buying a new slave for your harem (4 Feb)
Odalisquian books list now on Odalisques.com (29 Jan)
Edward Lane's descriptions and drawings of female clothing (27 Jan)
more posts...


"The Arab Scribe" by J.F. Lewis, 1852
"The Bath" by J.L. Gerome, in the Legion of Honor, San Francisco
"Odalisque" by Max Nonnenbruch
"By order of the sultan" by Antonio Fabres
"Idle Moments" by Frederick Arthur Bridgman, 1875
more pictures...


more books...

© Tanos


This site explores the imagined world of the Near East, especially of Ottoman Turkey and Egypt, created by mostly western painters and writers and centered on the figure of the odalisque - a female slave in a harem, trained to serve her Master's pleasure, and assigned to sexual rather than domestic duties. Rather than a faithful record of these Near Eastern cultures, it was a deep and penetrating reflection of often unacknowledged desires in Western audiences connecting sex, power and sensual pleasures.

This Odalisquian world has many elements which we would now identify with BDSM, especially D/s, M/s or O&P relationships, and this appreciation of Odalisquian imagery lives on within the modern BDSM scene. The Octagram identifies eight themes which unveil the figure of the odalisque: where a structure like O&P provides a skeleton for M/s and D/s relationships, the Odalisquian aim is to put sensual, feminine flesh on that skeleton.

Odalisques Blog

Posts about Orientalist paintings and about Odalisquian styles of O&P.

1 Mar 14   The Female Slave Market in Constantinople

When the Ottoman Turks captured Constantinople in 1453 they kept the city's ancient name, and it only changed to "Istanbul" during the Turkish republic in the 1920s. The Ottoman Empire was built on slavery in many ways, not only because the bureaucracy and professional army were staffed by male slaves conscripted in the provinces, but also because the Sultans themselves were the sons of slave concubines kept in the Imperial Harem. [more...]

17 Feb 14   From the slave market to the sultan's bedchamber

"Magnificent Century" ("Muhtesem Yuzyil") is a long running Turkish television drama about the reign of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent in the 16th century, including the life of the women in his harem. I've posted about watching the first episode, and included its bastinado scene in a post about making a falaka stick. Recently I watched Episode 65, the second installment of season 3, which includes that bastinado punishment, and I've collected clips which tell the story of another [more...]

4 Feb 14   Buying a new slave for your harem

Let us imagine that you have an opportunity to buy a female slave in 19th century Cairo or Istanbul. What advice would be useful to you? What should you look for, and how should you act? Even if you are never approached by a mad man in a blue box to go on such an trip, some of this advice might be useful in the present day whenever you find yourself in possession of a new slave. [more...]

29 Jan 14   Odalisquian books list now on Odalisques.com

I've added a page to Odalisques.com with a selection of books about odalisques, harems, orientalist painting, and belly dance. Each book has a description, usually from the publisher via Amazon, and a cover photograph.

27 Jan 14   Edward Lane's descriptions and drawings of female clothing

I've updated the page of selections from "Modern Egyptians" to include Edward Lane's description of what different classes of women were wearing in the 1830s. This update includes 8 of the illustrations from his book. [more...]

More posts ...