Long, long ago, in a century far, far away, I happened to be visiting the Pompidou Centre when it was showing a remarkable special exhibition. I think it was called “After Manet,” though I can find so sign of the show on the Beaubourg’s labyrinthine website, so maybe I dreamed the whole thing. But the show consisted entirely of pastiches of Manet’s groundbreaking Olympe, the painting that shocked delicate sensibilities in its own time and that still has the power to provoke today.
It’s the look on Olympe’s face that does the provoking: frank, perhaps daring, ultimately as unreadable as the Mona Lisa. But as for originality, Manet himself was composing a variation on a popular Orientalist theme already popularized by artist such as Ingres and Benouville. E.g.:
What started me on this search was that I recalled one painting in the Beaubourg show (there were over 30, if memory serves) in which the reclining odalisque had sprouted fangs, and her equally unreadable servant held a jack-o-lantern in lieu of fleurs. Never did find this online (please let me know if you do), but I was astounded by the breadth and sheer quantity of homages this painting has inspired. Here’s a mere smattering.
There are countless abstractions of Manet's quasi-original, like this one by Bob Kessel:
and numerous reversals of gender, race, class, what have you, such as this fun one of Ken Smith's:
and 3D versions, such as this marvelous one by Paul Spooner.
There are even commercial covers (thank you, Yves Saint Laurent):
And ones that combine the softly erotic with an implicit political hint of something slyly feminist or patently recidivist, depending on how you want to interpret it. This is by Bartlomiej Dabrowski.
But my faves tend toward the overtly political, like Kayti Didrikesen's Man of Leisure, King George:
If you have favorites of your own, please share. Especially if you come across the Jack O'lympe, my holy grail of pastiches.