MANET, Edouard
(b. 1832, Paris, d. 1883, Paris)


Oil on canvas, 131 x 190 cm
Musée d'Orsay, Paris

This canvas was the most vociferously decried painting of the 1865 Salon. In fact, Manet has painted it in 1863 but had apparently not dared submit it in 1864. Olympia is another painting packed with allusions to past masterpieces, notably Titian's Venus of Urbino and Goya's Naked Maja. This whole tradition, from the odalisque to the black slave, continues (particularly with Ingres) throughout the nineteenth century, but what was surprising here was the absence of any exoticism, of either period or location, and the portrayal of a modern prostitute.

The painting of the period was not at all averse to flowers, and Courbet, Fantin-Latour, and Manet all painted many pictures with flowers in them. Among the best known bunches (this time wrapped in florist's paper, like those that later Degas placed in the hands of his dancers as they took their bow) is the one being presented by a black servant to Olympia.