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Alias Olympia

Olympia is the painting made by artist Edouard Manet, which is a nude painting which portrayed a style much like early studio photographs, but it was based more on the Venus of Urbino by Titan. Despite the fact that Olympia was painted by Manet alone, his model, Victorine Meurent also played a great part in the creation of this painting. Through the collaboration of both the artist and the subject, Edouard Manet’s and Victorine Meurent’s Olympia became one of the first modern works of art during the time of the Renaissance.

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Edouard Manet’s contribution to the painting was that he was the one who created it, giving life to a two-dimensional image making it into something more. He conceptualized what the painting would look like, when he was challenged to give the Salon a nude painting to display during that time. His painting became very controversial, as it showed a nude model is wearing several small items of clothing. Because of this, her nude body is given more emphasis, as it was decorated with an orchid in her hair, a bracelet, a small ribbon worn around her neck, and a pair of mule slippers.

Because of this, Manet’s Olympia was attracted greater attention as her nakedness was more accentuated, as well as the comfortable courtesan lifestyle and sexuality which is being depicted by the painting. The elements of the painting were Manet’s contribution to the piece as well. The orchid flower, the unruly hair, the black cat and the flower bouquet all recognized female sexuality during that time. Another element which Manet gave emphasis on was her body, as she symbolized the modern Venus.

She was thin as compared to the prevailing standards, and it was regarded as lacking of idealism, which has successful enough to catch the attention of viewers, despite being placed high on the wall of Salon. Another element was the contrast being set by the black female servant in the background. The servant was fully dressed, as compared to her master who was fully undressed. This shows the irony of the understanding before, where black women were regarded more sexually active, something which is not evident in this scene. On the other hand, the model of Olympia, Victorine Meurent, is also an author of this work of art.

This is because Meurent effectively played the part of a modern day Venus in the painting, attracting and arousing the interest not only of critics but also of other artists to follow this line of work. Manet’s work was considered a modern work of art because of Victorine Meurent’s effective portrayal. She was viewed as a radical subject of the painting, wherein she showed a different flatness, tonalism, foreshortened shadows, and a peculiar perspective in her which characterized Olympia as modern work of art during that time (Levine).

It is said that Victorine Meurent’s portrayal of Venus has produced a woman which is not voluptuous in a traditional sense, and that she is not being served up to the viewers – instead she was aloof, self contained and mostly disdainful. Any visitor, or in this case anyone who views the piece would be dared by Meurent’s portrayal, as if staring him down. Victorine Meurent’s portrayal of Venus in Olympia is said to give the lie to every Venus. This has undermined tradition, as well as stared out at history, and this is all because of a self-contained model in the person of Victorine Meurent posed as a classical nude.

This has raised the outrage of the spectators, giving the painting, the model and the artist enough publicity to live by. After all the criticisms that Meurent received because of her portrayal of the Olympia, critics recognized that she was indeed a real woman of the nineteenth century. There is however, an issue of ambiguity of the life of Victorine Meurent as only a little is known about her. In Olympia, she stared down every man who looked at her, with her gaze fixed, and her facial expressions unmoving, she was indeed a symbol of power for the woman of the nineteenth century.

Meurent did not posses much record that would tell anything about her. Because of this, the masses were left to interpret things for themselves, including how Victorine Meurent lived her life. Edouard Manet’s Olympia was found to be a modern work of art during that time, and this is partially because of the depiction of Venus in the form of Victorine Meurent. According to Eunice Lipton, Olympia is truly a modern work of art because it depicts a prostitute in 1865, and that the artist has dealt with modernity in one of the most emotional and familiar way, though it was also filled with difficulty.

One manifestation of this modernity is that the piece has its own materiality, and this is seen in how the prostitute stared, which is full of professional and standardized attentiveness. Olympia both has a naked body and a naked stare, as well as a reserved self which can be accounted to none other than the model, Victorine Meurent. Another perspective given by Charles Boudelaire regarding Olympia’s modernity is that it depicts heroism of modern life, as his bold manner of presenting Olympia has inspired future impressionists.

Olympia is a modern work of art as it was able to depict life as it is now, and not as something ideal or something imagined. He urged other artists to follow the footsteps of Edouard Manet and try to develop contemporary situations where the nude can be depicted. Another critic, Clement Greenberg referred to Manet’s style in Olympia as his “inconsistency,” not in a negative way but in a modernist way. This is what made him stand out from other artists who came before him, and this significantly affected his status as a one-of-a-kind modern artist. Another proof of modernism in this work was that it is radical in its acute realism.

This peculiar image of a woman confronts the common ways which women are being depicted. Manet was supposed to be portraying Venus, but what he showed in his piece of work was someone very different from Venus. This person portrayed is able to say words with just her stare, arousing the interest of many. Looking at the present situation, we can compare Victorine Meurent to a famous Hollywood star, Paris Hilton. These two posses’ great similarities in their position in the society as empowered women. One of the similarities that these two have is the popularity among the opposite sex.

Victorine Meurent started posing for painters at a young age of 16, and has continued to do so for several years that followed. Some of the works which featured her showed her nude body. Because of this, she became an object of desire for men, and the society regarded her as a prominent nude figure, despite having posed in other decent works of art made. On the other hand, Paris Hilton’s popularity came to rise when various sex videos about her have spread through the internet. As a daughter of a very prominent businessman, she easily made it to the news, and the press was all over her.

They regarded Paris Hilton as an object of sexual desire and for quite a long time, this impression on her was not changed. Another similarity between the two is that both of them were able to capitalize from the negative impression that people had towards them. Victorine Meurent posed for other works which showed her nude body. After some time, she was accepted by the society and regarded her as the image of a modern woman. She gained a lot of followings in both the principle or in practice. Despite being negatively judged by others before, she was finally able to realize her importance and her potentials.

On the other hand, Paris Hilton was able to capitalize from this popularity which she made as a stepping stone in her road to stardom. Nobody cared about the sex scandals and videos spreading all over the internet nowadays because many other stars have released their own, as it further increases their own popularity. These videos and scandals became a means of advertising one’s self, and this has been started by none other than Paris Hilton. Analyzing their characters, we can also say that there is a difference in how they respond to various questions.

Victorine Meurent lived a quiet life maybe while Paris Hilton lived a very colorful and controversial life. Paris Hilton chose to stay under the limelight while Victorine Meurent after some years, decided not to show up anymore. Victorine Meurent’s life during that time was not hard, as compared to other people. She grew up in a family of artisans, exposing her to the world of art back in her early years. Meurent started posing when she was just 16 years old and continued to do so until the early 1870s. Meurent grew up in a privileged family, so there is really not much problem encountered while she was growing.

Victorine was a very talented person, as she’s able to play instruments like the guitar and violin. This could be a manifestation of her inclination towards the world of art. Her love for art was further extended when she also studied academic type of painting. Her modeling for various artists was indeed a great contribution in her part for the world of art, as she was successful to depict the modern woman during that time. During the time of the Renaissance, there were a lot of artists emerged, and the only way to stay and be recognized by many is for the work of art to leave a lasting impression in the minds of the people.

Because of the collaboration between an artist and the subject, Both Meurent and Manet were able to forged a lasting impression in the minds of the audience, even though they are not able pull though because of various reasons. Works Cited: Levine, Steven Z. “Alias Olympia: A Woman’s Search for Manet’s Notorious Model and Her Own Desire – Book Reviews”. 1993. Art Journal. April 8 2008. <http://findarticles. com/p/articles/mi_m0425/is_n4_v52/ai_14970155/pg_1>.