L’origine du monde. Courbet, 1866 * Abstract
L’Origine du monde is an oil painting realized by Courbet in 1866. It may be the most controversial piece of art that the famous artist has ever presented. Consisting of a 46x55 centimeters close up on a woman’s genitals, the picture makes all the conventions shatter and gets any audience uncomfortable.
This essay first explores the historical trajectory of L’Origine du monde, from its origins to its rediscovery since 1995. The painting results from Courbet’s imaginary as well as a precise historical context: the era of the Second Empire was indeed characterized by its interest for nude and erotic painting, what encouraged Courbet to revitalize in his realistic…show more content… That’s why Courbet kept his work hidden until his death. Concealed behind a green tapestry, he showed it to some rare and privileged visitors, which he considered as able to understand the artistic intents behind genitals.
The piece of art has ever since had a chaotic story: going from owner to owner, the painting remains reserved to a restricted circle of initiates. A roman has even been published that tells the whole story of the piece of art: Le roman de l’Origine by Bernard Teyssèdre. It ends with the entry of L’Origine du monde, in Orsay museum on the 26th, June 1995.
In a nutshell, the painting has experienced a long exile from its being realized in secret to its being revealed to the world in 1995. One century off the spotlights: here is the price of Courbet’s brilliant audacity.
…which asks the question of nudity. 1. Construction of the painting
L’Origine du monde is an oil painting that offers an unconventional and pornographic framing of a woman’s body. In the center of the picture, she presents her pubis topped by an imposing hairiness contrasting with the pervasive flesh. She also shows generously proportioned hips and belly. We can even make a breast out, which is partly hidden by the white woolen surrounding the painting’s subject. In both bottom corners, there are wide thighs, which emphasize the pinkish crack in the foreground that is