The Origin of the World: painting by Gustave Courbet

Among the paintings you'll discover during your guided tour of the Orsay Museum, Gustave Corbet's painting, entitled The Origin of the World, is certainly one of the most renowned and controversial, which must be seen at this respectable Paris institution. We'll discover the secrets of The Origin of the World by painter Gustave Courbet together

Description of the painting The Origin of the World

In more puritan times, this painting by Gustave Courbet was considered shocking. It depicts the sex and abdomen of a woman lasciviously laid out on a bid, without clothing. The image frames that part of her anatomy, and the viewer cannot see anything beyond the model's thighs and chest.

L'Origine du Monde de Courbet

The Origin of the World by Courbet

Willfully provocative, this work subverted the norms of the time which reserved - or at least tolerated - depictions of the nude body within the context of large mythological or dreamlike scenes, without directly confronting it realistically, in its crudest terms.

Gustave Courbet rejected the smooth, obviously idealized nudes of academic painting. When it was unveiled, The Origin of the World, now on view at the Orsay Museum, was considered pornographic by some. However, the work has no pornographic intentions, and could even be considered "the last word in Realism". In fact, what could be a more faithful representation of the origins of this world as we know it, based on the sensory and intellectual representations we make of it, than the sex and abdomen of a woman, which hold the secrets of childhood and life, and therefore is the origins of our world?

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Anecdotes on Courbet and the painting, The Origin of the World

Many anecdotes and mysteries surround Gustave Courbet's most famous painting, which we will repeat here today.

The painting's first secret is about the model's identity. Since her face is not shown, it is extremely difficult to formally identify the woman who posed in order for Gustave Corbet to paint the origins of the world. Some believe the model to be Joanna Hiffernan, who is represented in many other paintings by the artist. Other experts, including Thierry Savatier, believe that the painting was done using a photograph as reference. The historian Gérard Desangers hypothesizes that the model could be Jeanne de Tourbey, the mistress of the Turkish diplomat who commissioned the painting.

Another hypothesis, which made the news in 2013, is that the painting in question is in fact just a fragment of a larger work. But experts at the Orsay Museum reject that idea, and affirm that the painting's current format, as seen in Paris today, is the original format.

Whether you're intrigued or shocked, don't miss a chance to admire this painting by Gustave Courbet during your next visit to Orsay Museum in Paris!