Le Dejeuner sur
famous painting from Manet, shown at the Salon of 1865, along with his
Olympia,shown at the same time, caused great outrage at that
was so disturbing to viewers and critics?
had been fashionable at the Salon for several decades, including
those of Ingres,
Cabanel, and Gerome, well established artists.
So why such a furor?
Salon artists had depicted "perfect porcelain" skinned nudes
with eye-catching, cellulite-free bodies, as symbols in allegorical
settings (e.g. Venuses, or mistresses to famous kings).
refers back to, and breaks with, tradition in this painting. Painters such as Titian in Concert in the Country (1538) and Giorgione's
Pastoral Symphony (1508) had placed nudes in the midst
of dressed musicians. However, Manet takes reality further by placing a real woman
with abundant flesh (in this case Victorine Meurent) staring directly
at the viewer. This is not meant to be an allegorical
setting, although the cornucopia of the picnic basket in the foreground
is probably suggesting abundance and fertility. This is a scene in the French countryside,
with clothed artists in close intimacy with their model.
Grande Odalisque, referring back to the
tradition of Moorish harems (quite fashionable in Paris at the time),
did not cause as much astonishment in the Salon, when it was shown earlier
in the 19th Century, as did Manet's Olympia.. Although they are both blatantly nudes in full erotic poses,
Ingres' nude refers back to an allegorical setting of exotic lands.
Ingres' nude slyly turns her head in profile but does not stare
at us petulantly the way Olympia does. Ingres' nude could be beckoning the
viewer seductively, whereas Olympia
cannot be seduced by the flowers offered her by her admirer. Olympia refers to Titian's Venus d'Urbino(1538), but her much more
upright stance is haughtily staring at us. The model depicted in Olympia was Victorine Meurent--who was well known in the demimonde
of artists. Thus this identifiable
nude was no longer a symbol, but a well-known French woman, defiant
and nude. Today we would also ask--why is the
maid ignored by the naked woman and by the painter (her face can hardly
be discerned in the dark background)?
The scandal at the Salon was over the French daring nude, not
the fact that this scene depicted racial injustice.