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Musée d'Orsay sends Manet’s Olympia to Russia

French masterpiece, which goes on show at Moscow’s State Pushkin Museum this month, has only ever left Paris once before

In the latest sign of heightened cultural diplomacy between France and Russia, Manet’s Olympia (1863) will travel from the Musée d’Orsay in Paris for an exhibition at the State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow that opens to the public on 19 April.

According to a statement on the Pushkin museum’s web site, the Impressionist master’s painting of a nude woman and her servant, which shocked audiences when it was first shown in 1865 because of suggestions that the nude was a prostitute, is leaving the walls of the Musée d’Orsay for only the second time in its history.

It will be exhibited along with three works from the Pushkin’s collection: Paul Gauguin’s Te Arii Vahine (1896); Woman with a Mirror (early 1520s) by Giulio Pippi, who was called Giulio Romano, and a copy of Praxiteles’ sculpture Aphrodite of Knidos.

Our sister publication The Art Newspaper Russia reports that Olympia will move on to the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg in July.

In February, the Pushkin and Hermitage museums signed an agreement with the Fondation Louis Vuitton to bring together Modernist masterpieces from the seminal collection of pre-revolutionary art patron Sergei Shchukin for a show that will open in Paris in October. The governments of France and Russia were involved in arranging the unprecedented loan. Alla Manilova, Russia’s deputy culture minister, told the official Ria Novosti news agency that France will be making a blockbuster loan to Russia as well.

“An equally unprecedented exhibition is being readied by the Moscow Kremlin Museums, and the French side is doing everything for this exhibition to take place,” she said in an interview. “I won’t reveal the details; for now it’s a secret. But French masterpieces that have never left France will be coming here. This exhibition will be an absolutely global event. It will take place in 2017.”