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Olympia by Edouard Manet | Panting Analysis & Meaning
Dawit Abeza
Olympia by Edouard Manet | Panting Analysis & Meaning

Olympia by Edouard Manet | Panting Analysis & Meaning

Several major art trends arose in Europe throughout the nineteenth century, notably Realism and Impressionism. Despite their stylistic differences, these pair of styles shared one notable artist:

Édouard Manet. Manet's pioneering work mixes the boundaries between the separate movements while also making the connection, the Olympia painting is a notable example.

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Edouard Manet

Edouard Manet has traditionally been regarded as a modern art forerunner and a vital influencer to the modernization of French art between 1863 and 1883.

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Impressionist artists were impacted by his avant-garde paintings, which impacted his own painting style and hue scheme.

Nevertheless, he didn't participat in any of Impressionist Exhibitions in Paris and stayed to himself, choosing to establish his bold influence within the artistic mainstream and seek acknowledgment through the French Academy and its authorized Salon. 

Olympia's Analysis

A naked woman ("Olympia") boldly resting on a bed, bearing nothing except a black ribbon across her neck, a golden jewelry on her forearm, Louis XV shoes on her feet, and a silk flower on her head. 

A black cat sits at the end of the bed, and a servant is shown giving her a bunch of flowers. Olympia was modeled by Victorine Meurent, one of Manet's favorite models, who also portrays the nudist in Le Dejeuner sur L'Herbe. 

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The artwork's most striking aspect - the characteristic that distinguishes it as a groundbreaking masterpiece - is its completely contemporary setting. The look on her face is even more stunning.

She directs a strong, almost combative glance at the viewer, as if casting the spectator in the position of her guest. Indeed, painters have been creating female nudes for ancient times: Greek sculpture was almost entirely made up of female nudes, while the Italian Renaissance saw the female body as the ideal theme. 

Meaning of Olympia

This very contentious painting was completed in 1863 and initially displayed to the public two years later at the Paris Salon. The public thought this artwork was obscene since it depicted a call girl in her chamber, and the brazen expression of the woman generated quite a sensation.

The premise that the word Olympia was linked with prostitution created an  uproar around the painting in 1890, the French government purchased Olympia after a public offering coordinated by Claude Monet.

The painting was done in a modern style with fast brushwork, studio lighting, huge colorful backgrounds, and maximum depth, and the entire technique was unorthodox because Manet had discarded academic standards. There was also the canvas size, which was significantly larger than was typical for this stylistic painting.

Olympia's nakedness is well-emphasized and almost pictorial in appearance, and her physique is considerably more ladylike contributing to the painting's overall image.

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Olympia, who was she?

Victorine-Louise Meurent, a French model and artist, was the femlae reclining, who became known as Manet's Olympia. She appeared in numerous of Manet's paintings, notably the well-known Le Déjeuner sur L'Herbe (Lunch on the Grass).

Her artistic work was also shown in the Salon in Paris, where it was accepted on multiple occasions.

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The maid of Olympia

The appearance of the maid in the artwork, was represented by a lady named Laure, who became a source of debate among researchers in the artistic field.

Slavery had been outlawed in France and its dominion for 15 years when Olympia was painted, but unfavorable preconceptions of black people remained in some parts of French culture. In some situations, racially inflammatory rhetoric was used to describe the painting.

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