The Sleeping Venus and Olympia

1 January 2017

The Sleeping Venus/Dresden Venus, Giorgione with landscape and sky by Titian. 1510 [pic] Olympia, Edouard Manet. 1863 The Sleeping Venus, or Dresden Venus, is by Italian Renaissance artist Giorgione. It is one of the last works but Giorgione and the landscape and sky were actually finished by Titian after Giorgione’s death in 1510. The painting portrays a nude woman lounging in slumber. A great deal of effort was put into the shadows and details of the background.

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As a result, the woman’s position seems to mimic the landscape of the background. One aspect of the painting that was so revolutionary is Giorgione’s choice to paint the woman nude. This wasn’t common of his era and is widely regarded as the beginnings of modern art. Besides the obvious eroticism of nudity, there are underlying implications of eroticism in the positioning of the woman. Venus’s raised arm and her left hand place on her groin imply sensuality. Another underlying theme to this piece in that of the human body being a natural, organism object of the earth.

This is related by the curves of the landscape reflecting those of Venus. A unique detail to be noted is that of the color of the sheets. It is more common to see a warm tone in fabric of the time. But, in this piece they are a stark and contrasting silver. This further accentuates the soft and organic nature of Venus and the landscape. Olympia is oil on canvas by Edouard Manet. Painted in 1863, it is of a reclining nude woman being attended by a maid. It was inspired but Titian’s Venus of Urbino.

The contrast of this piece to Giorgione’s The Sleeping Venus, is that this piece has more to do with the realism of the subject matter then the fact that the woman is nude. This woman, seeming to be a courtesan is being presented with flowers, thought to be a gift from a client. This is not typical subject matter of the era. Despite the contrast to Giorgione’s Venus, there is the common fact that both pieces were a shocking departure from scenes of their era. The difference in each pieces shock factor is the Olympia was not shocking because of nudity like The Sleeping Venus.

The frontal gaze and the details depicting the woman as a courtesan were what stunned viewers. Such things were not narrated in art at the time. Details such as her pearl earring, bracelet, the orchid in her hair and the oriental shawl are all symbols of wealth and sensuality. These symbols are what identify her as a courtesan and emphasize a voluptuous and sexual atmosphere. Her position is also in close unison to that of Giorgione’s Venus, but portray a taboo side of eroticism rather the Giorgione’s organic and “of the earth” eroticism.

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