The Origin of the World


L’Origine du monde, Gustave Courbet, 1866

 

At the time Courbet was working on the painting his favorite model was a young woman, Joanna Hiffernan, also known as Jo. Her lover at the time was the American painter James Whistler, a friend of Courbet.

During the 19th century, the display of the nude body underwent a revolution whose main activists were Courbet and Édouard Manet. Courbet rejected academic painting and its smooth, idealized nudes, but he also directly recriminated the hypocritical social conventions of the Second Empire, where eroticism and even pornography were acceptable in mythological or oneiric paintings.

 

The putative upper section of L’Origine du monde

 

La belle Irlandaise (Portrait of Jo), Gustave Courbet, 1866

 

Courbet did another painting 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 of L’Origine du monde, the hypothesis that Hiffernan was the model for it prevails.

 

Photograph by Robert Mapplethorpe, circa 1984-86

 

L’Origine de la Guerre, Orlan, 1989

 

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)

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “The Origin of the World

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s