|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 that caused shock and astonishment when it was first exhibited at the 1865 Paris Salon. 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.
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 prostitute. 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. "Olympia" was a name associated with prostitutes in 1860s Paris.
Whereas Titian's Venus delicately covers her vulva, 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 woman whose nakedness is starkly emphasized by the harsh light.
The model, Victorine Meurent, became an accomplished painter in her own right.
In part, the painting was inspired by Titian's Venus of Urbino (c. 1538), which in turn refers to Giorgione's Sleeping Venus (c. 1510). Léonce Bénédite was the first art historian to explicitly acknowledge the similarity to the Venus of Urbino in 1897. There is also some similarity to Francisco Goya's La maja desnuda (c. 1800).
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). Comparison is also made to Ingres' La grande Odalisque (1814). Unlike other artists, Manet did not depict a goddess or an odalisque but a high-class prostitute waiting for a client.
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." The critics and the public condemned the work alike. Even Émile Zola was reduced to disingenuously commenting on the work's formal qualities rather than acknowledging the subject matter, "You wanted a nude, and you chose Olympia, the first that came along". He paid tribute to Manet's honesty, however: "When our artists give us Venuses, they correct nature, they lie. Edouard Manet asked himself why lie, why not tell the truth; he introduced us to Olympia, this fille of our time, whom you meet on the sidewalks."
|Édouard Manet's Olympia, Smarthistory|
- "Odalisque I. Looking at Manet. Olympia," and "A Family," paintings by Louis le Brocquy.
- A Modern Olympia and Spirit of the Dead Watching by Paul Gauguin.
- Portrait (Futago) by Yasumasa Morimura
References and sources 
- "Édouard Manet's Olympia". Smarthistory. Khan Academy. Retrieved February 11, 2013.
- Clark, T.J. (1999) The Painting of Modern Life: Paris in the Art of Manet and His Followers. Revised edition. Princeton: Princeton University Press, p.86.
- Reff, Theodore. (1976) Manet: Olympia. London: Allen Lane, p. 48. ISBN 0713908076
- Meyers, Jeffrey. (2004). Impressionist Quartet: The Intimate Genius of Manet and Morisot, Degas and Cassatt, p. 35; Beruete y Moret, Aureliano. (1922). Goya as portrait painter, p. 190.
- The Puzzle of Olympia. Phylis A. Floyd, 19th Century Art Worldwide, 2012. Retrieved 5 December 2012.
- Quoted in Honour, H. and J. Fleming, (2009) A World History of Art. 7th edn. London: Laurence King Publishing, p. 708. ISBN 9781856695848
- Frits Andersen (2004). Karen-Margarethe Simonsen, Marianne Ping Huang, Mads Rosendahl Thomsen, ed. Reinventions of the Novel: Histories and Aesthetics of a Protean Genre. Rodopi. p. 79. ISBN 9789042008434.
- "Manet’s Olympia (1863) Part 1 (p.3)". Every Painter Paints Himself. Retrieved 11 February 2013.
- "Yasumasa Morimura, Portrait (Futago)".
- 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. ISBN 0-8014-8609-2
- V.R. Main. A Woman With No Clothes On. London: Delancey Press, 2008 ISBN 978-0-9539119-7-4.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Olympia by Manet|
- The Shock of the Nude: Manet's Olympia by PBS
- Phylis A. Floyd, The Puzzle of Olympia
- "Manet's Olympia" on EveryPainterPaintsHimself.com