More about Olympia
Manet's Olympia stares you, and all future lovers, down.
This is one of the most iconic paintings in Western art history (La-dee-da).
This woman was one of Manet's favorite models, a fellow painter named Victorine Meurent.
If Manet had said this was Venus or some other goddess everyone would have loved it. Because she is just another slutty lady, the critics decried the painting as crude and immoral. Turns out that's great for staying power.
Some have suggested that she is looking in the direction of the door, as her client barges in unannounced, but it's for sure her stare that shocked everyone so much. She doesn't look embarrassed to be naked, or demure as a goddess would.
The composition of the painting looks very similar to Titian's Venus of Urbino and Giorgione's Sleeping Venus. Those women however are mythical beings and Olympia is a prostitute.
While nudes of the time were often shown with a sleeping puppy (a sign of fidelity and being docile), Manet shows his girl with a black cat, tail stuck up in the air looking very phallic and un-docile.
The flowers are probably a gift from a satisfied client.
Here is what Wikipedia says about Olympia (Manet)
Olympia is a 1863 oil painting by Édouard Manet, first exhibited at the 1865 Paris Salon, which shows a nude woman ("Olympia") lying on a bed being brought flowers by a servant. Olympia was modelled by Victorine Meurent and Olympia's servant by the art model Laure. Olympia's confrontational gaze caused shock and astonishment when the painting was first exhibited because a number of details in the picture identified her as a prostitute. The French government acquired the painting in 1890 after a public subscription organized by Claude Monet. The painting is on display at the Musée d'Orsay, Paris.
The title of the painting is generally credited to Manet's close friend, the art critic and artist Zacharie Astruc, since an excerpt from an Astruc poem was included in the catalogue entry with the piece when it was exhibited at the 1865 Salon.
Check out the full Wikipedia article about Olympia (Manet)