Éduard Manet, The Execution of Maximilian, ca. 1867-8. Photograph: © The National Gallery, London
Édouard Manet’s Luncheon on the Grass was the scandal of the year in France when it was exhibited in the 1863 Salon des Refusés, and Olympia was greeted with the same shock and indignation in the Paris Salon of 1865 (a journalist wrote, “If the canvas of the Olympia was not destroyed, it is only because of the precautions that were taken by the administration”). So selling tickets to show a new painting in America that was too controversial for France seemed a surefire way to get attention—and perhaps make a little money.
From 1867 to 1869, Édouard Manet had made some works depicting the execution of Emperor Maximilian in Mexico in 1867. Considering that Maximilian’s empire had collapsed after Napoleon III withdrew his support, it was not prudent to exhibit them in France while…
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