Image credit Edouard Manet complete works web site, Olympia, Edouard Manet, 1862, oil on canvas, 40" x 74", held by the Musee d'Orsay, Paris.
You just about missed that petite black cat on the foot of the bed, over on the right, didn't you? The kitty close-up:
Manet's prostitute brazenly confronts the viewer, her black cat echoing her bold stare. The animal's inclusion is far from incidental, the French word for cat--chat--also being used to signify female genitalia....Manet's black cat is as insolent as its owner who offers herself for sale to the highest bidder. Manet included cats in more than one work during this decade [Gary: "Yippee!].
My thoughts on the painting? First off, the cat is almost invisible, but reminds me so much of our petite black cat Ca Beere. Also, seems to me that to simply assume that the woman is a prostitute may not be accurate--what if she is simple a lover posing for a painting? But then, my prostitute radar is pretty poor. I recall once being on a business trip to Las Vegas with a buddy and co-worker, sitting in the bar area of a casino, and my friend happened to comment on "that hooker over there." I looked and all I saw was a stylishly dressed attractive single woman. Prostitute never entered my mind, but we watched her over the next half an hour until she left with a guy in a suit.
Also, it's interesting that the black woman--like the cat--is pretty invisible, being black against a dark background. There....but not there. Sounds like a comment on society?
Next, this is a big painting, over 3 feet tall and over 6 feet wide. The bride and I will be heading to France later this year and I cannot wait to stand right in front of this magnificent painting. It'll be interesting to see how the strong contrasts of light and darkness in oil paint actually appear in person, versus what I can see in a mere 2-dimensional repro in a book.
[Gary note: With my Cats in Arts posts, I encourage you to scope out the art appreciation site Artsy (I have no financial interest in the site, I just like it), where you can explore many aspects of the world of art. You'll certainly be entertained and enlightened!]