Manet’s Olympia


While making plans to check out the Fashion and Impressionism exhibit at The Art Institute of Chicago, I started thinking about Edouard Manet’s Olympia (1863). If are familiar with this painting, you know that it is somewhat notorious for what the subject isn’t wearing- but in my eyes, it is what she is wearing that makes this piece so provocative. The fact that she has left on her jewelry and her shoes means that she is more naked than nude. Nude means idealized female body, while naked most likely means that Manet’s model is a courtesan. She holds the viewer in a direct, non-flinching gaze, unashamed by what she has just done or about to do. There is something deeply modern about her and the way she is rendered by Manet.  I don’t think that this piece is in the Art Institute exhibit, but maybe it should be-fashion can be just as powerful by virtue of its absence as it is by what we can see. 

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2 thoughts on “Manet’s Olympia

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