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Edouard Manet. "Olympia". Theme and Variations

Edouard Manet

The collection of masterpieces from the Musée d'Orsay and the State Hermitage is opened for the visitors to see in the General Staff Building till the end of October.

The most famous Edouard Manet’s painting ‘Olympia’ very rarely leaves Paris and now exhibits in the Hermitage accompanied by more than 20 canvases in a broad historical context.

Every single painting from the collection allows to explore the depiction of a nude woman image throughout the Renaissance, Baroque and modern art. All the works at the exhibition can be identified as the genre of nude judging only by absence of clothes, no matter what characters are depicted.

The theme of naked beauty can be opened up through ‘The Birth of Venus’ by Botticelli, ‘Venus of Urbino’ by Titian (Uffizi Gallery) and ‘Sleeping Venus’ by Giorgione (Dresden Gallery), which is represented in the etchings from the State Hermitage collection. These masterpieces gave rise to the most important European art image of beautiful nudity, the gradual transformation of which led to the emergence of ‘Olympia’ three and a half centuries later.

Manet presented ‘Olympia’ at the Salon of 1865, where it caused a scandal, as the audience and critics saw the painting as an insolent provocation and the violation of the propriety. Fearing that angry viewers may damage the picture, the management had to put two guards to protect it. No publicly displayed picture caused such amount of caricatures before as ‘Olympia’ did.

Even after the Salon of 1865 Manet was interested by the theme and composition of ‘Olympia’ for a long time. Later he returned to its variations in engravings, and also used its image as a background detail in a ‘Portrait of Emile Zola’ (1868, Musée d'Orsay). During the painter’s life ‘Olympia’ never went on display again and was kept in the master’s studio. Nobody bought it and it was removed from the post-mortem sale.

"Edouard Manet - Olympia. Theme and Variations" is exposed in the General Staff Building untill the 30th of October.