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Olympia
Artist Édouard Manet
Year 1863
Type Oil on canvas
Dimensions 130.5 cm × 190 cm (51.4 in × 74.8 in)
Location Musée d'Orsay, Paris

Olympia is an oil on canvas painting by Édouard Manet in the Realism style. Painted in 1863, it measures 130.5 by 190 centimetres (51 x 74.8 in). The nation of France acquired the painting in 1890 with a public subscription organized by Claude Monet. It is now in the Musée d'Orsay, Paris.

Contents

Critical reaction

Though Manet's The Luncheon on the Grass (Le déjeuner sur l'herbe) sparked controversy in 1863, his Olympia stirred an even bigger uproar when it was first exhibited at the 1865 Paris Salon. Conservatives condemned the work as "immoral" and "vulgar." Journalist Antonin Proust later recalled, "If the canvas of the Olympia was not destroyed, it is only because of the precautions that were taken by the administration." However, the work had proponents as well. Émile Zola quickly proclaimed it Manet's "masterpiece" and added, "When other artists correct nature by painting Venus they lie. Manet asked himself why he should lie. Why not tell the truth?"

Precedents

Sleeping Venus (c. 1510), also known as the Dresden Venus by Giorgione
La maja desnuda (circa 1797–1800), known in English as The Naked (or Nude) Maja by Francisco de Goya

The painting was inspired by Titian's Venus of Urbino, which in turn refers to Giorgione's Sleeping Venus.[1] There were also pictorial precedents for a nude woman, attended by a black servant, such as Ingres' Odalisque with a Slave (1842), Léon Benouville's Esther with Odalisque (1844) and Charles Jalabert's Odalisque (1842).[2] Comparison is also made to Ingres' La grande Odalisque (1814). But Manet did not depict a goddess or an odalisque, but a realistic persona, a high-class prostitute waiting for a client. The classic work that most closely resembles Manet's in character is Francisco Goya's La maja desnuda (c. 1800).

Content

What shocked contemporary audiences was not Olympia's nudity, nor even the presence of her fully clothed maid, but her confrontational gaze and a number of details identifying her as a demi-mondaine or courtesan. These include the orchid in her hair, her bracelet, pearl earrings and the oriental shawl on which she lies, symbols of wealth and sensuality. The black ribbon around her neck, in stark contrast with her pale flesh, and her cast-off slipper underline the voluptuous atmosphere. Whereas Titian's Venus delicately covers her sex, Olympia's hand firmly protects hers, as if to emphasize her independence and sexual dominance over men. Manet replaced the little dog (symbol of fidelity) in Titian's painting with a black cat, which symbolized prostitution. Olympia disdainfully ignores the flowers presented to her by her servant, probably a gift from a client. Some have suggested that she is looking in the direction of the door, as her client barges in unannounced.

The painting deviates from the academic canon in its style, characterized by broad, quick brushstrokes, studio lighting that eliminates mid-tones, large color surfaces and shallow depth. Instead of a smooth idealised nude, as in Alexandre Cabanel's La naissance de Vénus (also painted in 1863), Manet painted a real woman, whose nakedness is revealed in all its brutality by the harsh light.

The model, Victorine Meurent, went on to become an accomplished painter in her own right.

References

  • Ross King. The Judgment of Paris: The Revolutionary Decade that Gave the World Impressionism. New York: Waller & Company, 2006 ISBN 0-8027-1466-8. See pages 105-108.
  • Eunice Lipton. Alias Olympia: A Woman's Search for Manet's Notorious Model & Her Own Desire. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1999.
  • V R Main. A Woman With No Clothes On. London: Delancey Press, 2008 ISBN 9-7809-5391-1974.

Notes

  1. ^ [1].

External links


Template:Infobox Painting Olympia is an oil on canvas painting by Édouard Manet in the Realism style. Painted in 1863, it measures 130.5 by 190 centimetres (51 x 74.8 in). The nation of France acquired the painting in 1890 with a public subscription organized by Claude Monet. It is now in the Musée d'Orsay, Paris.

Contents

Critical reaction

Though Manet's The Luncheon on the Grass (Le déjeuner sur l'herbe) sparked controversy in 1863, his Olympia stirred an even bigger uproar when it was first exhibited at the 1865 Paris Salon. Conservatives condemned the work as "immoral" and "vulgar." Journalist Antonin Proust later recalled, "If the canvas of the Olympia was not destroyed, it is only because of the precautions that were taken by the administration." However, the work had proponents as well. Émile Zola quickly proclaimed it Manet's "masterpiece" and added, "When other artists correct nature by painting Venus they lie. Manet asked himself why he should lie. Why not tell the truth?"

Precedents

File:Venus
Sleeping Venus, also known as the Dresden Venus by Giorgione
File:Goya Maja
La maja desnuda, known in English as The Naked (or Nude) Maja by Francisco de Goya

The painting was inspired by Titian's Venus of Urbino, which in turn refers to Giorgione's Sleeping Venus.[1] There were also pictorial precedents for a nude woman, attended by a black servant, such as Ingres' Odalisque with a Slave (1842), Léon Benouville's Esther with Odalisque (1844) and Charles Jalabert's Odalisque (1842).[2] Comparison is also made to Ingres' La grande Odalisque (1814). But Manet did not depict a goddess or an odalisque, but a realistic persona, a high-class prostitute waiting for a client. The classic work that most closely resembles Manet's in character is Francisco Goya's La maja desnuda (c. 1800).

Content

What shocked contemporary audiences was not Olympia's nudity, nor even the presence of her fully clothed maid, but her confrontational gaze and a number of details identifying her as a demi-mondaine or courtesan. These include the orchid in her hair, her bracelet, pearl earrings and the oriental shawl on which she lies, symbols of wealth and sensuality. The black ribbon around her neck, in stark contrast with her pale flesh, and her cast-off slipper underline the voluptuous atmosphere. Whereas Titian's Venus delicately covers her sex, Olympia's hand firmly protects hers, as if to emphasize her independence and sexual dominance over men. Manet replaced the little dog (symbol of fidelity) in Titian's painting with a black cat, which symbolized prostitution. Olympia disdainfully ignores the flowers presented to her by her servant, probably a gift from a client. Some have suggested that she is looking in the direction of the door, as her client barges in unannounced.

The painting deviates from the academic canon in its style, characterized by broad, quick brushstrokes, studio lighting that eliminates mid-tones, large color surfaces and shallow depth. Instead of a smooth idealised nude, as in Alexandre Cabanel's La naissance de Vénus (also painted in 1863), Manet painted a real woman, whose nakedness is revealed in all its brutality by the harsh light.

The model, Victorine Meurent, went on to become an accomplished painter in her own right.

References

  • Ross King. The Judgment of Paris: The Revolutionary Decade that Gave the World Impressionism. New York: Waller & Company, 2006 ISBN 0-8027-1466-8. See pages 105-108.
  • Eunice Lipton. Alias Olympia: A Woman's Search for Manet's Notorious Model & Her Own Desire. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1999.
  • V R Main. A Woman With No Clothes On. London: Delancey Press, 2008 ISBN 9-7809-5391-1974.

Notes

External links








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