|Courbet's L'Origine du Monde (1866) on display|
in 2009 at Musée d'Orsay in Paris
/Photo by C. Sezgin
The feminist painting L'Origine du Monde in the Musée d'Orsay in Paris now has a face according to Courbet expert Jean Jacques Fernier (he continued the work of his father Robert who published the artist's catalogue raisonné).
In 1866, Courbet painted a woman's torso with her vagina on display and her legs opened for Ottoman diplomat and art collector Khalil-bey who sold the work two years later before becoming ambassador to Vienna. The painting was owned by five private collections before entering the Musée d'Orsay in 1995. Khalil-bey reportedly contracted syphilis from a prostitute in St. Petersburg and sold the painting in 1868 to settle gambling debts.
Last week Paris Match posted Fernier's video explaining why the newly discovered painting of a woman's head belongs to the model in L'Origine du Monde. The work was reportedly purchased for 1,400 euros from a Parisian antiques dealer in 2010. Fernier believes that the unsigned painting was cut off from the canvas of L'Origine du Monde. The model is believed to be Joanna Hiffernan, an Irish artist's model romantically linked to both Courbet and the American painter James Abbott Whistler. It should be noted that a critic quoted in a competitive media outlet, Le Figaro, disputes the attribution of the painting.
Here are some thoughts from ARCA Lecturer Tom Flynn on the discussion with a focus on psychoanalysis and the painting.