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Olympia unfavorably compared to Titian’s Venus

In Courtesan & Prostitute, Critics, Olympia's Degradation on May 11, 2010 at 8:43 pm

Amedee Cantaloube writes in Le Grand Journal, June 22nd, 1865:

“This Olympia is a sort of female gorilla, a grotesque in India rubber outlined in black, apes on a bed, in a state of complete nudity, the horizontal attitude of Titian’s Venus: the right arm rests on the body in the same fashion, except for the hand, which is flexed in a sort of shameless contraction.”

Titian, Venus of Urbino, Oil on Canvas, Uffizi, Florence, 1538.


Olympia, the Venus of Paris, 1863…


Friend Zacharie Astruc writes Manet of response to Olympia at Salon opening

In Friends, Paris Salon on May 11, 2010 at 8:42 pm

June 20th, 1865.  The battle has started, it seems. I can see the sparks fly even from here (Fountainbleau).

A few deserters are passing with matches that want to be torches.

Le Charivari, Le Siecle: two real old knockheads, Edouard; it’s hilarious to listen to that infectious, empty, stupid and foolish verbiage from low amateurish minds who don’t even have a tongue. Oh! the glazed look of Texier… And this envious buffoon pretends to be happy? What an ocean Paris is! And how unfortunate to meet those pleasant monsters. I am happy for you, because these riots rejuvenate the mind!

It’s like hardening steel – and it goes without saying, Edouard, that we won’t be leaving Toledo. After these heavy storms, I am expecting rainbows. Let’s hope that those hardy fellows will propose a toast to your mind.

Collect with great care all the pieces of paper that bear your name so that I can make a festoon of them upon my return.

I believe the verses were published. I now stand guard, protecting the royal tent.

I haven’t read anything on the whole group and nothing on Fantin.

Are we really being machine-gunned? If such is our luck, please let me know. Give me the most intimate details of what is going on. Warm regards to our friends. I will let you know how my work is progressing.

Honore Daumier looks at bourgeois looking at Olympia

In Caricatures, Critics, Paris Salon on May 11, 2010 at 8:41 pm
Honore Daumier’s Before The Painting, June 19, 1865

In Le Charivari, June 19, 1865.

“Why the devil is that big red woman in chemise called Olympia?”

“Perhaps it’s the name of the cat.”

Critic Felix Deriege lays a whole trip on Olympia

In Olympia's Degradation, The Black Cat on May 11, 2010 at 8:40 pm

Baldung, Witches Sabbath

May 21st, 1865

[Olympia] is lying on her bed, having borrowed from art no ornament but a rose which she has put in her towlike hair.  This redhead is of perfect ugliness.  Her face is stupid, her skin cadaverous.  She does not have a human form; Monsieur Manet has so pulled her out of joint that she could not possibly move her arms or legs. By her side one sees a Negress who brings in a bouquet and at her feet a cat who wakes and has a good stretch, a cat with hair on end, out of a witches’ Sabbath by Callot.  White, black, red , and yellow  make a frightful confusion on this canvas; and impossible forms, seize one’s attention and leave one stupefied!

Horror of the Morgue!

In Critics, Olympia's Degradation, The Black Cat on May 11, 2010 at 4:27 pm

V. de Jonkevitz in Salon de 1865, May 21st, 1865:

The expression on the face is that of a premature and vicious creature ; the body, the colour of which reminds one of meat that has hung for too long, is reminiscent of the horror of the Morgue. A hideous negress dressed in pink is holding on her side the bouquet of a doubtful allegory, whilst a black cat arching his back comes and prints the unequivocal trace of the place in which he treaded with his paws on the sheet.

Olympia called the Hottentot Venus & morgue-like again…

In Courtesan & Prostitute, Critics, Olympia's Degradation, The Black Cat on May 11, 2010 at 4:20 pm

Caricature of Saartjie Baartman, called the "Hottentot Venus"

Critic Geronte writes, May 21st, 1865:

That Hottentot Venus with a black cat, exposed completely naked on her bed like a corpse on the counters of the morgue, this Olympia from the rue Mouffetard [a notorious haunt of prostitution at the time], dead of yellow fever and already arrived at an advanced state of decomposition.

Olympia a skeleton?

In Critics, Olympia's Degradation on May 11, 2010 at 4:15 pm

A. J. Lorentz sees Olympia as, May 22nd, 1865:

“A skeleton dressed in tight-fitting tunic of plaster.”

Olympia again decried as putrified and morgue-like

In Critics, Olympia's Degradation on May 11, 2010 at 4:12 pm

Flaubert’s friend Paul de Saint-Victor describes, May 23rd, 1865:

“the crowd thronging in front of the putrefied Olympia as if it were at the morgue.”

Friend Zacherie Astruc writes poem for Olympia

In Friends, Paris Salon on May 11, 2010 at 4:09 pm

Portrait of Zacharie Astruc, by Manet.

Astruc’s Poem attached to portrait of Olympia, 1863.

“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 beautiful to behold / The august young woman is whom ardor is ever wakeful.”

Critic Gautier deems Olympia repugnant

In Critics, Olympia's Degradation, The Black Cat on May 11, 2010 at 3:58 pm

Theophile Gautier, by Nadar.

Critic and poet Theophile Gautier writes, May 23rd, 1865:

With some repugnance I come to the peculiar paintings by Manet. It is awkward to discuss them, but they cannot be passed by in silence. . . . Many people think it is enough to pass them by and laugh, but that is a mistake. Manet is not without importance; he has a school, he has admirers, even fanatic followers; his influence extends further than is generally realized. M. Manet has the honor of being a danger. But now the danger is passed.

Olympia is inexplicable from any point of view even taken for what she is, a puny model stretched out on a sheet. The color of the flesh is dirty, the modeling non-existent. The shadows are indicated by more or less large smears of blacking.  What’s to be said of the negress who brings a bouquet of flowers in a paper, or the black cat that leaves its muddy footprints on the bed? We would still excuse the ugliness were there only some truth in it, some careful study, heightened by some splendid effect of color. Even the least pretty woman has bones, muscles, skin and some sort of color. Here there is nothing, we are sorry to say, but the desire to attract…