Long matured, probably sketched around 1862 from drawings that date from his time with Thomas Couture, Olympia can be read as the insolent apotheosis of a prostitute, who takes the pose and name of the courtesans of the Renaissance. The reference to Titian is as insistent as Victorine Meurent's gaze, quietly sovereign.
At the 1865 Salon, with one or two exceptions, it was only a cry of horror. Edouard Manet had suddenly brought modern, noxious reality into the boudoir of the beautiful ideal and the fantasy harems. In the shadow of this cat as immodest as his mistress, the impure offered his plebeian and childlike forms to a stunned public. Moreover, as the servant reminds us obliquely, this queen of the night is a flower of the islands.
Edouard Manet had arranged for some verses by his friend Zacharie Astruc to be included in the Salon brochure:
"When tired of dreaming, Olympia awakens,
Spring enters on the arms of the mild black messenger;
She is the slave who, like the amorous night,
Comes to adorn with flowers the day delightful to behold:
The august young woman in whom ardour is ever wakeful."
Length: 5.8 cm.
Width: 4.8 cm.
Height: 1.9 cm.
Weight: 72 g.
Materials: Silver pewter, Gold pewter, Resin
Origin: Oil on canvas Olympia, 1863
Artist: Edouard Manet (1832-1883)
Museum: Paris - Orsay Museum