"It's odd, I always thought I made men uneasy"

The first in a series on masterpieces of erotic art...

Edouard Manet, Olympia, 1863, Oil on canvas, Musee d'Orsay, Paris

The title of this post is a quote from Victorine Meurent, the model for Edouard Manet's Olympia...

She stares at me. I stare back, embarrassed to take my eyes away from hers for fear of being seen as a voyeur. But I cannot ignore the petite, porcelain, perfect figure. The cat is clearly not impressed by my presence. The maid holds flowers. Are they a gift from me? Will they be accepted, or discarded?

She looks at me with detachment and a slight bemusement. Manet has made me confront my own sexuality by inviting me to participate in this picture. This woman is not for sale...I can admire but not touch. Not only a superb exercise in painting (the form in the figure achieved with true economy of tone), but an exercise in moral standards and the role of women in society, just as relevant today as it was in the nineteenth century. This is what makes Olympia erotic, not the fact that it is a nude...I feel uneasy.

For the Victorine Meurent story I recommend Alias Olympia by Eunice Lipton, Thames & Hudson, London, 1992.