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Olympia, Manet

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Olympia, Manet

Eduoard Manet's 1863 painting, Olympia, portrayed a naked woman on an unmade bed. The painting was first unveiled in Paris in 1865 at the Salon, a place where people gathered together to admire pieces of art. The same year Manet painted Olympia, he submitted his painting Dejeuner sur l'herbe to the Salon (Levine.)

The jury, a group of people who decided which paintings were to be hung in the Salon, rejected this painting that illustrated clothed men picnicking outdoors with a naked woman. When the piece was finally shown publicly that same year, it brought out a similar negative response from the viewers. Before submitting Olympia to the Salon, Manet waited two years (Levine.) The jury accepted Manet's new work and it was hung up. Parisians were so outraged, for protection Olympia had to be moved near the high ceiling of the Salon. Olympia shocked the public, not only due to the subject matter but the unfamiliar style as well. A painting depicting unclothed people was without doubt acceptable at the time, many of them displayed at the Salon, including works by Ingres, Cabanel, and Gerome. Of course their works were idealized. Their pieces showed nude figures with perfect skin, free of cellulite, rolls, and any other flaws. Manet portrayed, the nude, as an unidealized woman, a prostitute who stared directly out at the viewer. People felt it humanized prostitution, which was not, in that time and place, an accepted thing to do. Victorine Meurent, was Manet's model depicted as a courtesan, a woman whose body was used for service (Levine.) At that time many courtesans and prostitutes delivered their services to middle and upper class gentlemen, but it was obvious by their reactions they did not want to be confronted with one in a painting in a gallery of art. To add to the discrepancy of his painting Manet rejected the traditional style and painted in his own personal manner. The artist formed clearly visible rough brushstrokes on his canvas and made the foreground glowing with Meurent's yellowish white skin, while the background falls into darkness. As well, Manet painted Olympia with a thick black outline around Meurent that closes in on her and makes the viewer focus on her nakedness and her firm gaze. Specifically, this paper will address why Manet's painting of Olympia, a beautiful naked woman, became a question of politics and how his break away from traditional style now days is admired. Through immense research, it will be demonstrated that the conscience of the viewers was pricked when coming across Manet's Olympia, nevertheless, now is an extremely famous and honored painting in the world of art (Levine.)

When Manet first presented his Painting Olympia in 1865, viewers were outraged and showed a sort of aggression towards it. There was this woman floating, on the thick white pillows of her bed, wearing only one pink orchid in her coppery hair, a thin black ribbon bow-tied around her neck, a wide bracelet on her right wrist, and a blue slipper dangling from one of her casually crossed feet. As the viewer's eye scans the picture it is almost forces one to narrow in on the hand that stretches across the thighs of the women and initially directs one downward. After that, a person is usually stunned even frightened by the gaze the naked woman is giving, so directly into the eyes of the audience (Jamot.)

Regarding composition and design, Manet's painting bears a great resemblance to Titian's Venus of Urbino, a Renaissance nude painting. Even though Parisian's were used to viewing nude nymphs and goddesses of every variety, Manet's painting was the first painting that made no pretense at such disguises. Manet's painting compared to Titian's is the same in kind. Both subjects are lying on their beds and the bed and pillows are almost identical, ruffled and tangled. One women is holding a flower the other has one in her hair. Each subject has their left leg crossed with their hand covering her sex. The sleeping dog in the Titian painting becomes Olympia's startled cat (Jamot.) The clothed attendants in the background tell the viewer they're intruding into their private bedroom. So why was Titian's Venus of Urbino painting accepted and Manet's Olympia scorned and ridiculed?

Another painting that did not cause, as much shock as Manet's Olympia did, was Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres' Grande Odalisque. Although both are nudes in full erotic poses, Ingres' nude refers back to an allegorical setting of exotic lands. Ingres' nude is looking toward the viewer yet is turned away, while Manet's stares are at the spectator sternly. In Ingres' painting she's relaxed and reclines in satins, silks and feathers with a belt of jewels and a pipe. In Manet's Olympia her posture is alert and stiff and seems awkward, since she's propped up on the pillows. The odalisque's soft, warm skin tones are contrasted with the rich silk patterns in cool colors. The courtesan's



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