The Male Gaze: Venus of Urbino and Olympia
Venus of Urbino is nude, but not in the empowered, strong way of Classical portrayals of male nudes. Instead, like many other female nudes of her time and beyond, she is submissive and idealised with a well-modeled body to appeal to males. She acknowledges her viewer, but in a playful way similar to that of Venus de Milo.
In Olympia, Manet mimics Titian’s presentation of the main figure, but rather than using the central figure to please male onlookers, in a way, Olympia shames them. While the subject of Venus of Urbino is a goddess, the subject of Olympia is a common prostitute. Not only does she acknowledge her audience in a confrontational way, it is implied that her viewers are her entering clients. Men who went to salons to look at paintings like Venus of Urbino would have been shocked and offended to be put on the level of a prostitute and her client, challenging the way they look at the nudes shown to them in art.