Art History’s Funniest Moments: The Unintentionally Hilarious Censorship of Gustave Courbet’s Origin of the World

The Musee D’orsay (NSFW) shows it on its website and discusses the quandary this painting lives in.  Does this painting exploit the woman or celebrate it?  Courbet, with his dark clever mind forces us to ask this question.  Now, you’re probably wondering what did I find so funny about this.  Well, this funny moment comes watching a documentary about the history of nudity in art.  I do not remember the title exactly, but I do remember when the documentary talked about Courbet’s Origin of the World.  The thing is, they did not show the whole painting, only footage of it in the Musee D’Orsay with people’s heads in front of it.  Between the woman’s legs.  All in all, the class that I was watching with could not hold back their snickers.  It reminds me of an interview with Fred from the B-52s where he said that when The Ed Sullivan Show filmed Elvis above the waist, the censorship just made things worse.

When I first saw this painting, I was taking Modern Art History.  The teacher (an all-around awesome woman) was showing slides of Courbet’s work and my head was down while I was taking notes.  She shows a new slide, I look up and BOOM! There’s the painting.  I mean, you hardly ever see a woman’s nether regions depicted in such a way in art.  In Western art from the Ancient Greeks to the Renaissance, most of the women rendered in the words of the Metatron, “are as anatomically impaired as a Ken Doll.”  It says a lot about the portrayals of women’s sexuality.

Even today, people do not know how to deal with it.

ETA: Rewrote a sentence.

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