Courbet Genitalia Find Face

An art enthusiast may have found the answer to a 150 year old art mystery.

The Origin of the World, an infamous painting by Gustave Courbet which shows a close-up of the female genitalia in graphic detail, has always been an artistic conundrum -- is it merely a voyeuristic vagina or snapshot of a snazzy snatch?

Art collectors of ArtKabinett social media network know well this iconic work from numerous visits to the Musée d'Orsay in Paris.

However, everyone has always wondered who was the model, and where is the rest of her body, including the face? Now the mystery may be solved.

The original painting, created in 1866, has a notorious history. It was hidden in the private collection of Khalil Bey, a Turkish-Egyptian diplomat, who later sold it to pay off his gambling debts. The painting was never meant to be seen publicly but it still caused scandal in Paris when it came to market.

One critic described it as a “little monstrosity”; others considered it far too risqué to exhibit in 19th century France. It would have also broken the law for “affronting public and religious morals”.

Head Reattached

After two years detective work which included chemical tests, art historian Jacques Fernier, the official expert on Courbet's works has agreed to authenticate a portrait of a woman, whose owner claimed that it is, indeed, the missing head of the voluptuous torso.

Fernier was initially skeptical when “the owner” brought the painting to him. But after two years of tests and analysis of the canvas and its brushwork, he is convinced that 'Origin' had been cut into pieces. He was able to align the two paintings' panels through grooves in the frame.

Mr Fernier, who works at the Gustave Courbet Institute, has written that this facial portrait, also painted in 1866, is “recognized as by Courbet”, although a third party had restored parts of it badly.

He intends to add it to the next edition of his catalogue raisonné the official record of the artist’s works.

The addition of the head now means “it loses some of its mystery and some of its charm”, Mr Fernier concluded, saying there must have been a reason for Courbet to cut the head off.