In The painting of modern life T. J. Clark says Olympia has a choice, working against the definition of the prostitute offered by Henri Turot, for whom prostitution implies ‘first venality and second absence of choice’ (Clark 1984, 79). For Turot, further, the prostitute’s very existence depends upon the temporary relations she entertains with her customers, the subjects, relations that are public and without love. An absence of privacy, then, where privacy implies a self-possession aligned not only with reason, will, choice, but also with feeling or with the ability to feel. An absence of sovereignty where sovereignty implies a kind of auto-positioning, a positioning of oneself in relation to oneself, an autocritical autopositioning that moves against what it is to be positioned, to be posed by another, to be rendered and, as such, to be rendered inhuman, to be placed in some kind of mutual apposition with the in/human and the animal (the black female servant ; the lascivious little cat). The little girl’s image extends a line traced by Clark from Olympia’s pose, to the pose of Titian’s The Venus of Urbino (see Figures 2 and 3). That line moves within the history of the idealization and re-materialization of the nude, the history of the prostitute as artist’s model, the history of the wresting of modeling from prostitution and the yoking of it to pedagogy.
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Women & Performance : a journal of feminist theory n° 17