Can’t stop thinking about the history of the ownership of Courbet’s The Origin of the World. (A thread.)
Commissioned by Ottoman diplomat Halil Şerif Pasha, most of the paintings owners constructed individual ways of housing, covering and revealing the painting and its subject.
Like a forbidden porno mag in the woods, the owners often made it known to anyone who cared to listen that they owned it but they nonetheless kept it hidden, only revealing the picture at dinner parties through specially constructed mechanisms of pulleys snd curtaind and panels.
Jacques Lacan was the final private owner of the painting but he went a step further by owning it and never making it publicly known that he did so. His ownership of the painting only became public knowledge due to Elizabeth Roudinesco’s biographical sleuthing.
One of the few people who knew he owned it — but kept his secret — was Marguerite Duras. Lacan only seemed to share his ownership with the few people he admired most. Later, his descendants donated it to the nation to cover their taxes.
Many have likened the painting’s possessive quality (no doubt exacerbated by the history of its ownership) to Courbet’s other painting, The Studio, as if the painting’s primary message is the painter’s mastery of the feminine.
Others, however, see the composition as being closer to Courbet’s The Source of the River Loue, affirming not an ownership but an awe before the feminine void from which creation torrents forth.
Gustave Courbet’s zeros and ones.
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