Olympia- Edouard Manet


Edouard Manet, Olympia,1865

The work Olympia was more ridiculed than the luncheon, the critics charged him with the

fact that this picture was indecently naked. It was an inspiration from the artwork the Venus

of the Urbino made by the master Titian. Again, here he relates and uses the rather

contemporary subject, to do justice to what he wanted to indicate. Manet`s Olympia was a

mockery or a parody. The model name was Victorine Meurent. (A prostitute and a painter)


The disturbance that it created in the critics mind was the portrayal of a successful prostitute,

who is devoid of clothes sits in a rather bold posture. Her gesture suggests the action where she

covers her sex whit her hand, in order to suggest, the suggested. She wears a mysterious sneer

which seems a though is about to change into a smile .There is a slave behind holing a

bouquet of flowers which has no significance to her, sent to her by one of her admirers. She

lays on the bed for no other purpose than sex. She allures the viewer in.


She is talked about in a fashion of being the portrayal of an independent individual, who has a

secure profession. She looks directly at the viewer and speaks out loudly in the face, as she

knows what they want from her. The society where Manet lived treated women as an object

of use nurture, comfort, inspire or arouse.


She looks at the viewer with contempt. The tradition that has been continued from

renaissance that to honour human, thus to consider human being in the work of art above

everything else, was not the focus of art then.


Her strength lies in her independence. She is not a goddess or a nymph, in a dreamy position,

mistaken, or a bather seen off guard. She is a prostitute, not weary for sleep, but is beaten

down under her nights work. Paris then was swamped with prostitutes. The painting did not

serve the purpose of charming the public, but was a naked truth, which uncovered what was

being practiced and hidden under the concealed eye of sophistication. The woman here is not

trying to pretend, she was reflecting the truth of a common working class girl.


She lounges back and is scantly accessorised; she wears heels on one foot while the other

carelessly falls of. She wears a ribbon in her neck symbolic of prostitution then, a huge

flower adorns her ear. She seems conscious and alert of the act; she was alluring the viewer

into. Manet shows the truth and not the lie that hid in the painting of masters, the

exaggeration of a perfect woman body..


The part that outraged the crowd was that he changed the terminology of a picnic, which was

otherwise carried off in a more clad manner. She stares placidly at the viewer, putting the

viewer in an uneasy role of a client.


She is tantalizingly self-sufficient. There’s nothing humble about her. To the wealthy

collectors of art and women, who regarded both as possessions, Olympia stripped them of

their illusions. Her body is ripe for the taking, but everything else, including the meaning

behind that enigmatic almost-smile, she’s keeping for herself.

Titian, Venus of Urbino,1538

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