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Art / Olympia

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Olympia is a painting by Édouard Manet, first exhibited at the 1865 Paris Salon, which shows a nude woman ("Olympia") lying on a bed being brought flowers by a servant. Olympia was modelled by Victorine Meurent and Olympia's servant by the art model Laure. Olympia's confrontational gaze caused shock and astonishment when the painting was first exhibited because a number of details in the picture identified her as a prostitute. The French government acquired the painting in 1890 after a public subscription organized by Claude Monet.

The painting is on display at the Musée d'Orsay, in Paris.


Olympia provides examples of:

  • Art Imitates Art:
    • The painting itself deliberately pays homage to Titian's Venus of Urbino.
    • Olympia's fame would go on to inspire a number of homages, including Portrait (Futago) by Yasumasa Morimura and A Modern Olympia by Paul Cézanne.
  • High-Class Call Girl: While the model playing the nude woman is not a prostitute, the person she is modeling as was meant to be, the name "Olympia" being a formal French slang-term for prostitute, the character herself waiting for her client.
  • Reclining Venus: One of the more famous examples of the odalisque, featuring a nude escort on a bed.
  • Rule of Symbolism: The model wears nothing but a black ribbon around her neck, a gold bracelet on her wrist, Louis XV slippers on her feet and a silk flower in her hair - all symbols of wealth and sensuality. The composition includes a black cat, symbolizing heightened sexuality and prostitution - a characteristically Baudelarian symbol.


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