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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.

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…

Olympia’s cat becomes famous in caricatures

In Caricatures, The Black Cat on May 11, 2010 at 2:50 pm

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Bertall pokes fun of Manet and his Olympia characters

In Caricatures, Paris Salon, The Black Cat on May 11, 2010 at 2:43 pm

In Le Journal, June 3rd, 1865.

Conclusion:  Monsieur Manet cleans up his cat’s corner, sends his bouquet to Theresa, and his coal-peddler to Batignolles.  The show is over.  If it occurs to him to do a masterpiece next year, it will be talked about in Podunk.

(Note: Theresa was the most popular cafe-concert singer of the day. Batignolles was the section of Paris where the Impressionists met at the Cafe Guerbois. Podunk means the “middle of nowhere.”)

Even Olympia’s cat gets made fun of

In Caricatures, Paris Salon, The Black Cat on May 11, 2010 at 2:32 pm

In unattributed Salon review, June 2nd, 1865.

When the guards have their backs turned, whang!  Monsieur Manet’s cat comes down from the sixth row and arches his back close to Landelle’s Italian lady.  It is quite understandable that he feels the need of steadying himself.  The poor creature!

(Note:  Charles Landelle (1821-1908) painted religious pictures but was particularly known for his paintings of African, Egyptian, Moroccan and Italian women.)

Olympia called an “ebony-worker”

In Caricatures, Courtesan & Prostitute, Critics, Olympia's Degradation, The Black Cat on May 11, 2010 at 2:25 pm

Cham, Le Salon, 1865.

In Le Salon, June 2nd, 1865 by Cham.

The Birth of the little Ebony-worker.  Monsieur Manet has taken the thing too literally: The song “How like a bouquet of flowers!”  The announcements are sent out by Mother Michel and her cat.

Olympia derided as sick prostitute with black familiars

In Courtesan & Prostitute, Olympia's Degradation, The Black Cat on May 11, 2010 at 6:00 am

In the journal La Fraternité Littéraire, 1865

What verse! What a picture! Olympia awakes, weary from … dreaming. She has had a bad night, that is evident. Insomnia and colic have disturbed her serenity; her color indicates as much. There are two “black messengers”: a cat which has been unfortunately flattened between two railway sleepers; a negress who has nothing about her that “recalls the amourous night” unless it be a bouquet bought at the florist’s on the corner, and paid for by Monsieur Arthur, which tells me a great deal about Olympia. Arthur is certainly in the antechamber waiting.

Olympia derided as “coal-woman”

In Caricatures, Critics, Olympia's Degradation, The Black Cat on May 11, 2010 at 5:50 am

The cat’s tail, or the coal-peddler of Batignolles. Everyone admires this beautiful coal-woman whose modest contours have never been exposed to so commonplace a liquid as water. Let us admit it boldly: the coal-woman, her paper-wrapped bouquet, M. Manet, and his cat are the lions of the Salon of 1865.