Alias Olympia

Alias Olympia: A Woman's Search for Manet's Notorious Model and Her Own Desire

Eunice Lipton
Copyright Date: 1992
Published by: Cornell University Press
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    Alias Olympia
    Book Description:

    Eunice Lipton was a fledging art historian when she first became intrigued by Victorine Meurent, the nineteenth-century model who appeared in Edouard Manet's most famous paintings, only to vanish from history in a haze of degrading hearsay. But had this bold and spirited beauty really descended into prostitution, drunkenness, and early death-or did her life, hidden from history, take a different course altogether? Eunice Lipton's search for the answer combines the suspense of a detective story with the revelatory power of art, peeling off layers of lies to reveal startling truths about Victorine Meurent-and about Lipton herself.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-6825-4
    Subjects: Art & Art History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[x])
  2. History of an Encounter
    (pp. 1-17)

    I don’t remember when I first saw Victorine Meurent, but I wouldn’t have recognized her or known her name at the time. No one would have. She was just another naked woman in a painting. Maybe I remarked that the man who made the picture was called Manet or that the work itself was named Olympia, but that would have been it. When I was at college in the late 1950s, works of art were considered things of beauty. Period. One would never pay attention to a painting’s literal content. One wouldn’t even risk noticing that De Kooning’s Woman II...

  3. My mama told me ...
    (pp. 18-37)

    City College was a perfect place to stifle desire in the 1950s. It was also a perfect place to dream. It was the school so proud of its past leftist tradition, especially those men and women in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade who marched off in such high spirits only to die in Spain in 1936. My own uncle David, my father’s brother, had been one of them. And many of us were red-diaper babies, although our parents had thrown up their hands in despair, shattered by the Stalin-Hitler Pact in ’39 or the disclosures about Stalin in the fifties. Disillusion...

  4. Voilà Victorine
    (pp. 38-124)

    It was a good fifteen years before I embarked on my search for Meurent’s life, but in the mid-1980s I went to Paris for six months and began. It was a casual inquiry, at first. So much so that I didn’t know I was looking for her precisely. The book I had come to work on was called “Both Sides of the Easel: Women as Models, Women as Artists.” It was going to be about Berthe Morisot, Mary Cassatt, Suzanne Valadon, and Victorine Meurent, four women who had been painters as well as models for other artists. I was fascinated...

  5. In America
    (pp. 125-159)

    I am a wreck when we get back to New York—nervous, weepy, angry. I keep falling asleep. Almost immediately, however, I make an appointment to see my old friend Marcia. We’ve known each other for twenty-five years. It’s not an easy friendship, but it keeps going. More or less.

    I arrive at our rendezvous early. It’s a Soho bar that we like—rather more Little Italy than Soho, and a bit old-fashioned. When Marcia arrives and walks up to my table, I’m standing there with tears rolling down my cheeks. My friends know I’m a cryer, but this seems...

  6. The End
    (pp. 160-175)

    When I return to Paris in August of 1990, I think it is simply to write my book amidst those streets and that language, that pleasure and permissiveness which Paris is for so many Americans. I have no intention of doing more research. There is only one little chore I think I will pursue for nostalgia’s sake: I will go back to the office of the Société des Artistes Français and try to locate the original of the photocopy I found at the Musée d’Orsay. After all, it was that “died 1928” that set me going in the first place....

  7. Notes
    (pp. 176-182)