|Edouard Manet Olympia 1863|
In 1865, the Salon, surprisingly, accepted a painting by Manet of a prostitute, called Olympia, and the painting sent all of Paris into an uproar. Guards had to be placed around the painting to keep the crowds of spectators at bay. "An atmosphere of hysteria and even fear predominated," the historian Ross King writes. "Some spectators collapsed in 'epidemics of crazed laughter' while others, mainly women, turned their heads from the picture in fright."
-Malcolm Gladwell, as excerpted from David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants
What shocked contemporary audiences was not Olympia's nudity, nor even the presence of her fully clothed maid, but her confrontational gaze and a number of details identifying her as a demi-mondaine or prostitute. These include the orchid in her hair, her bracelet, pearl earrings and the oriental shawl on which she lies, symbols of wealth and sensuality. The black ribbon around her neck, in stark contrast with her pale flesh, and her cast-off slipper underline the voluptuous atmosphere. "Olympia" was a name associated with prostitutes in 1860s Paris.
-Wikipedia, as excerpted from this entry