Manet's Olympi The Figuration Of Scandal Analysis

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Manet debuted, arguably one of his most famous paintings, Olympia at the 1865 Paris Salon. Since its debut, Olympia has been the source of much debate and controversy. The public saw this piece as obscene—a flagrant disrespect to established moral traditions. However, current discussions focus less on the “lewd” nature of this painting and more on the theoretical perspectives explaining why the public viewed Olympia as scandalous. In “Manet’s Olympia: The Figuration of Scandal,” author Charles Bernheimer argues for a Freudian perspective in which sex is the most important factor influencing public opinion. Manet’s Olympia defied traditional art conventions in depicting the female body. The salon displayed traditional nudes for the pleasure of the, primarily male, viewer. Under the male gaze, the woman’s bare body became an erotic object—an object from which he may craft an erotic fantasy, characterized by male domination. Since the artist painted the traditional nude to visually please the viewer, he positions the body in a primarily frontal view so as to offer the best view. Additionally, traditional nudes depicted women as allegorical or mythological figures who flaunted a…show more content…
Manet’s Olympia was not the object of contempt and scorn only for sexual reasons but also for classicist reasons. Bernheimer agrees with many ideas that author T.J. Clark expounds upon in his book The Painting of Modern Life. Clark takes a Marxist perspective in which he believes public opinion of Olympia was colored by Manet’s ambiguous representation of Olympia’s social class. By portraying Olympia as naked (not nude), Manet implies that she is of a lower class. She is no more than a common whore, a fille publique (streetwalker). However, her material wealth says otherwise; she would be known as a courtesan (a high-class

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