Nude seductresses go face to face in Venice

Two naked seductresses separated by three centuries of history went face to face for the first time in Venice on Wednesday in an exhibition devoted to French painter Edouard Manet with his "Olympia" alongside Titian's "Venus of Urbino".

Nude seductresses go face to face in Venice
Photo (left): Manet's Olympia. Photo (right): Titian's Venus of Urbino

Manet completed his painting of a prostitute being waited on by a black maid in 1863 – a controversial masterpiece which caused a stir at the time but was largely inspired by old master Titian's own ground-breaking work from 1538.

"Olympia" usually hangs in the Musee d'Orsay in Paris and the painting has never left France. It was driven to Italy for the show and then ferried across the Venice lagoon to St Mark's Square on a barge to be exhibited in the Ducal Palace.

The works were "scandalous" in their times, said Guy Cogeval, head of the Musee d'Orsay.

And they still have the capacity to shock.

"Olympia" was not used in publicity posters because of local sensitivities in Venice.

"I didn't want to put 'Olympia' next to St Mark's Basilica, out of respect," said Gabriella Belli, director of Venice's museums and a co-curator of the show together with the Musee d'Orsay.

The exhibition entitled: "Manet: The Return to Venice" is organised by the city in conjunction with the Musee d'Orsay and features 23 paintings and 20 sketches by the French painter (1832-1883).

They are hung alongside 80 works by Italian Old Masters including Carpaccio, Guardi and Lotto — a way of underlining Manet's Italian inspiration, which is only now being fully appreciated.

"Italy was a fertile, stable and permanent inspiration for Manet's genius," said Stephane Guegan, a consultant for the show.

"It was impossible to say this for a long time since his influence by Spain is always put forward," Guegan said.

The exhibition lasts until August 18th.

During a trip to Florence in 1857, Manet painted a reproduction of Titian's "Venus of Urbino" — which still hangs today in the Uffizi Gallery.

Bringing the Titian to Venice "required the help of Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius", Belli said.

She said the loans of "Olympia" and the "Venus of Urbino" from their respective museums were linked.

"One would not have come without the other."

Cogeval said that to avoid controversy on the departure of "Olympia" from France for the first time he "got permission from French President Francois Hollande" – even though an authorisation from the culture ministry would have sufficed.

The moment the painting was lifted with a crane from a barge moored at St Mark's Square was particularly stressful, said Jean Naudin, in charge of international exhibitions at the Musee d'Orsay.

Belli said she appreciated "Olympia" – "a modern woman, petite but full of energy and character".

But Cogeval said he had been "overcome" by Titian's work.

"It is one of the most beautiful paintings in the world," he said.

Guegan said the "Venus of Urbino", which was commissioned by the duke of Urbino following his marriage, had more than a purely aesthetic intent.

"The painting was meant for the bedroom and was intended as a stimulation for the couple," he said.

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The new guide to Florence’s Uffizi Galleries – showing only the nudes

There are lots of guides to the visual splendours of Florence's world-famous galleries - but for those with a short attention span comes a new one, showing only nude or erotic artworks.

The new guide to Florence's Uffizi Galleries - showing only the nudes
Sandro Botticelli's "The Birth of Venus" is the most famous work included in a controversial new guide to the Uffizi Galleries. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

The online guide to the gallieries is produced by the porn website Pornhub and provide a list of the best erotic artworks in each museum, plus directions of how to get there – so you don’t need to waste your time looking at paintings of people in clothes.

Part of the site’s Classic Nudes series of ‘erotic’ guides to some of the world’s most renowned museums, the guide for the Uffizi lists 21 artworks, together with a tongue-in-cheek commentary, and the location of each piece within the galleries.

“The Uffizi Gallery is located in the birthplace of the Renaissance: Florence, Italy. So it’s no wonder it has such a large collection of artwork from the era. But what you may find surprising is the sheer volume and variety of naked bodies rendered in paint, bronze and marble in this marvelous museum,” writes Pornhub.

Among the works featured are Botticelli’s Birth of Venus (1485) and the Roman statue of the Knidian Aphrodite, dating from the 1st Century.

The guide also includes the Venus of Urbino by Titian (1538), which it calls “kinky”, and Painting and Poetry by Francesco Furini (1626), which is described as featuring “two ridiculously hot babes who just so happen to be making out”.

Titian’s “Venus of Urbino”. Photo: Giuseppe Cacace/AFP

Bosses at the Uffizi were not amused at the gallery’s inclusion in Pornhub’s series and have threatened to sue.

Meanwhile in Paris, the Louvre’s management has said only that it is ‘dismayed’, while the Musée d’Orsay remained silent on the subject.

As is hopefully clear, the Pornhub guides are explicit in nature and not suitable for children.

The Uffizi does, however, provide a great day out for all the family and contains a lot of fully-clothed artwork too. At present it is operating with reduced visitor numbers due to health rules, so advance booking to recommended.