L'Origine du monde


Origin of the World, painted by French artist Gustave Courbet in 1866, is one of my favorite paintings. Reproductions of this work, as well as many of Courbet's less explicit nudes, along with portraits, landscapes and still lifes are readily available. I've seen many of them on display in framing shops and art shops, but never a print of this particular painting, undoubtedly due to the erotic realism of this work. I can imagine were the framing shop in our local mall to display this in their store front, mall management, and likely the local authorities, would regard that as a definite problem.

I have to admit I would probably be uncomfortable hanging this painting in my living room. Assuming Grandgoddess V would allow it, which she assuredly would NOT, I can envision our grandsons pointing and giggling at the painting every time they visit. Nope, that wouldn't work. Isn't it interesting that Courbet's depiction of the origin of all woman/mankind is largely regarded as being unfit to openly display, despite being fine art. But not in France of course, where they tend to be more laissez faire about such matters. The original 18" x 22" oil on canvas painting currently resides in Musée de Orsay in Paris.

What say you: Fine art or pornography?


Jbb-1 said...

Now I know why the weedwacker was invented. And after they were done, they figured maybe it could also be used outside in the garden.

Anonymous said...

Oh calm down. What's wrong with hair? Nobody had a problem with it until Big Business made a crisis out of it to sell razor blades.

Peter Kneels said...

Definitely the painting is fine art.

To be "pornographic" requires more eroticism (e.g., showing evidence of arousal or post-coital juices) or implied eroticism (e.g., a lucky man kneeling before this available lovely woman).

Would even libertines like us enjoy having the painting in the living room - No! We also have curious grandchildren;and prudish friends. Maybe in the dungeon above an "altar" of reverence with an Ikebana display of three roses.

Andy said...

I'm happy to see this painting being analyzed on a blog like this. I've been a reader of yours for some time now and have actually been lucky enough to have seen this painting three or four times. I'm an American ex-pat living in France and you've really hit on something.

The French, despite their deep-rooted, almost pathological conservatism when it comes to a number of topics, are way ahead of Americans in their ability to get past the idea of nudity as first and foremost "dirty" and "sexual." A couple of years ago, on our yearly visit to see my parents, a parenting magazine, I can't remember which one, got into trouble by showing a woman breastfeeding her baby on the cover. I mean, you saw neither aureola nor nipple, just the outline of the breast and the back of the baby's head. In fact, my mother, who's pretty open about most things, was actually offended. Offended.

Now let's jump across the big pond to France. Yeah, the French in general are afraid of anything that isn't white, straight and "normal." But, that aside, they are quite open about their sexuality, although they might keep their preferences to themselves. Meanwhile, when it comes to the clash between nudity and prudishness, "nudity as beauty" prevails.

Corbet had some problems when he painted "L'origine du monde," but that was over a century ago and, though it may still a source of debate (beauty or pornography), the beauty camp is still victorious.

But that doesn't keep the women in the painting from making my mouth water...

Thanks again and keep up the good work.


VeezKnight said...


When the female form is depicted with reverence, regardless of the media used, it's difficult not to create something beautiful to see. But I must say that I find many of the nudes painted by "The Old Masters" to be more beautiful, desirable and even sexier than some of the photographic nudes one sees today.

Andy said...


I totally agree with you about the "old masters," though I guess "old" is a relative term. For me, the most beautifully erotic works are from the period 1800-1939, when that fine line between art and the "obscene" was certainly more fluid than the period immediately thereafter.

Thanks again and I can't wait to see what you'll talk about next.