This etching of an Odalisque by Manet could easily be interpreted as just a new variation on a theme that had been popular for some years, an oriental woman reclining. However, check out the fly whisk she is holding: it is a large paintbrush with a phallic handle.
She may be about to "paint" the surface of the image we are looking at, as though her "canvas" were a mirror. Thus Manet implies that this woman is the creative painter in his mind and the androgynous source of his fertility.
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More Works by Manet
Art scholars have sometimes wondered why the execution squad in Manet's Execution of Emperor Maximillian are so unrealistically close to their target. Indeed, on close inspection, their rifles are aimed as though they would miss.
Original Publication Date on EPPH: 20 Apr 2010. © Simon Abrahams. Articles on this site are the copyright of Simon Abrahams. To use copyrighted material in print or other media for purposes beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. Websites may link to this page without permission (please do) but may not reproduce the material on their own site without crediting Simon Abrahams and EPPH.