One of my favourite paintings from the 17th century is Olympia, by Edouard Manet.  Manet paints Olympia as confident and bold in her nakedness, which was a change from the submissive, pleasing Venuses of previous works.

ImageOlympia, Edouard Manet

For instance, Venus Asleep by Giorgione, shows the vulnerable nude, asleep and innocent. She is unaware of the artist, and surrounded by beautiful trees and mountains

ImageVenus Asleep, Giorgione

. A later example, Reclining Venus by Ingres, shows a more Queen-like Venus. She is in a palace, her two handmaids are in the background, and she wears several pieces of jewellery. More importantly, she gazes at the view from the corner of her eye, inviting the artist in, and like the first her hand is draped across her hips to preserve her modesty.

ImageReclining Venus, Ingres

Olympia, however sits more upright, and stares boldly out at the viewer, confidently, almost confrontational. Her hand is not carefully draped like the other Venuses, but placed deliberately, confidently, claiming her own body. She is not at the mercy of the viewer, as with the others, but in total control. She is also decorated with jewellery, and her servant brings her a bouquet of flowers from an admirer. The story of this painting is that Olympia was a famous Parisian prostitute, hence the black cat, the flowers and the jewellery, all symbols of sexuality. The truth in the painting comes from the fact that he did not romanticise her, or attempt to transform her with artistic license into Greek goddess. The harsh brushstrokes and strong light also serve this purpose, and as a result was hated by many of the gallery viewers.