Artister: Gustave Courbet
L'Origine du monde (The Origin of the World) is an oil-on-canvas painted by French artist Gustave Courbet in 1866. It is a close-up view of the genitals and abdomen of a naked woman, lying on a bed with legs spread. The framing of the nude body, with head, arms and lower legs outside of view, emphasizes the eroticism of the work. ;The Origin of the World, now openly displayed, has taken its proper place in the history of modern painting. But it still raises the troubling question of voyeurism. ;Identity of the model -----------------------------;At the time Courbet was working on the painting his favourite model was a young woman, Joanna Hiffernan, also known as Jo. Her lover at the time was James Whistler, the American painter and friend of Courbet.;Courbet did another painting in 1866, La belle Irlandaise (Portrait of Jo), whose model was Joanna Hiffernan. During his whole career, Courbet did four portraits of Hiffernan. She was probably the model for L'Origine du monde, which might explain Courbet's and Whistler's brutal separation a short while later. Whistler then returned to London. In spite of Hiffernan's red hair contrasting with the darker pubic hair ofL'Origine du monde, the hypothesis that Hiffernan was the model for it prevails.;In February 2013, Paris Match reported that Courbet expert Jean-Jacques Fernier had authenticated a painting of a young woman's head and shoulders as the upper section ofL'Origine du monde which according to some was severed from the original work. Fernier has stated that because of the conclusions reached after two years of analysis, the head will be added to "the next edition of [the Courbet] catalogue raisonné". Musée d'Orsay has indicated that "L'Origine du monde" was not part of a larger work.;The Daily Telegraph reported that "experts at the [French] art research centre "Centre d’Analyses et de Recherche en Art et Archéologie" (CARAA) were able to align the two paintings via grooves made by the original wooden frame and lines in the canvas itself, whose grain matched. According to CARAA, it performed pigment analyses which were identified as classical pigments of the 2nd half of the 19th century. No other conclusion were reported by the CARAA. The claim reported by Paris Match was characterized as dubious by Le Monde art criticPhilippe Dagen, indicating differences in style, and that canvas-similarities could be caused by buying from the same shop.;Provocative work -----------------------------;During the 19th century, the display of the nude body underwent a revolution whose main activists were Courbet and Manet. Courbet rejected academic painting and its smooth, idealised nudes, but he also directly recriminated the hypocritical social conventions of the Second Empire, where eroticism and even pornography were acceptable in mythological or oneiricpaintings.;Courbet later insisted he never lied in his paintings, and his realism pushed the limits of what was considered presentable. With L'Origine du monde, he has made even more explicit the eroticism of Manet's Olympia. Maxime Du Camp, in a harsh tirade, reported his visit to the work's purchaser, and his sight of a painting "giving realism's last word".;By the very nature of its realistic, graphic eroticism, the painting still has the power to shock and triggers censorship (see below).;Influence -----------------------------;The explicitness of the picture may have served as an inspiration, albeit with a satirical twist, for Marcel Duchamp's last major work, Étant donnés (1946–1966), a construction also featuring the image of a woman lying on her back, legs spread.;In February 1994, the novel Adorations perpétuelles (Perpetual Adorations) by Jacques Henric (fr) reproduced L'Origine du monde on its cover. Police visited several French bookshops to have them withdraw the book from their windows. A few proprietors maintained the book, but others complied, and some voluntarily removed it.;On February 23, 2009, a similar situation happened in Braga, Portugal, when the police confiscated the book Pornocratie by Catherine Breillat, displayed in bookshops using L'Origine du monde as its cover. A great deal of controversy was sparked by the police action. The reason given was the need to maintain public order. Also, the book title incorrectly hinted at pornographic content. Portuguese law forbids public displays of pornography.;In February 2011, Facebook censored L'Origine du monde after it was posted by Copenhagen-based artist Frode Steinicke, to illustrate his comments about a television program aired on DR2. Following the incident, many other Facebook users defiantly changed their profile pictures to the Courbet painting in an act of solidarity with Steinicke. Facebook which originally disabled Steinicke's profile finally re-enabled it without the L'Origine du monde picture. As the case won media attention, Facebook deleted other pages about the painting.;In October 2011, again, a complaint was lodged against Facebook with the "tribunal de grande instance de Paris" (Paris court of general jurisdiction) by a French Facebook user after his profile was disabled for showing a picture of L'Origine du monde. The picture was a link to a television program aired on Arte about the history of the painting. As he got no answer to his emails to Facebook, he decided to lodge a complaint for "infringement of freedom of expression" and against the legality of Facebook's terms which define the courts located in Santa Clara County, California, as the exclusive place of jurisdiction for all litigating claims.;Although moral standards and resulting taboos regarding the artistic display of nudity have changed since Courbet, owing especially to photography and cinema, the painting remained provocative. Its arrival at the Musée d'Orsay caused high excitement. According to postcard sales, L'Origine du monde is the second most popular painting in the Musée d'Orsay, afterRenoir's Bal du moulin de la Galette.;The Serbian performance artist Tanja Ostojić parodied the work in her so-called "EU Panties" poster in 2005.;The image is also referenced as inspiring Catherine Breillat's filming of the female genitalia in her 2004 film Anatomie de l'enfer (Anatomy of Hell).;In 2010, British composer Tony Hymas composed "De l'origine du monde" a musical suite dedicated to the picture as well as relations between Courbet and the Paris Commune, based on texts by Courbet himself, Charles Baudelaire and Pierre Dupont.;Owners -----------------------------;The first owner of The Origin of the World, who probably commissioned it, was the Turkish-Egyptian diplomat Khalil-Bey (1831-1879). A flamboyant figure in Paris Society in the 1860s, he put together an ephemeral but dazzling collection devoted to the celebration of the female body, before he was ruined by his gambling debts. Exactly what happened to the painting after that is not clear. Until it joined the collections of the Musée d'Orsay in 1995 – by which time it belonged to the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan – The Origin of the World epitomised the paradox of a famous painting that is seldom actually seen.;Courbet regularly painted female nudes, sometimes in a frankly libertine vein. But in The Origin of the World he went to lengths of daring and frankness which gave his painting its peculiar fascination. The almost anatomical description of female sex organs is not attenuated by any historical or literary device. Yet thanks to Courbet's great virtuosity and the refinement of his amber colour scheme, the painting escapes pornographic status. This audacious, forthright new language had nonetheless not severed all links with tradition: the ample, sensual brushstrokes and the use of colour recall Venetian painting and Courbet himself claimed descent from Titian and Veronese, Correggio and the tradition of carnal, lyrical painting.