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Le Roman de l’origine

Bernard Teyssèdre

This is probably the most heretical painting in history. Painted in 1866, it was only shown to the public in 1988 (at the museum of Brooklyn), then, on a long term basis, as of 1995, when it entered the musée d’Orsay through a donation. We are refering of course to the Origin of the world by Gustave Courbet. The painting’s damned dimension is not the only aspect that calls for an abundance of comments. Its itinerary, from one collector to another, through Europe, is an odyssey in itself. While a large retrospective on Courbet is being prepared at the Grand-Palais for the fall, Bernard Teyssèdre gives a version enriched by his invetigations, that took him from Turkish diplomat Khalil-Bey, who hid this pubic mane in 1867 behind a small green curtain, up to Jacques Lacan’s country home. But those are only the best known owners. Light is shed on the others, like the Hungarian count, François de Hatvany, who owned it the longest period of time (40 years). Some rare clues – seen by Edmond de Goncourt in 1889, mentioned in a bank vault in Budapest in 1942, negotiated in Zurich in 1948 – and the presence of unexpected charactes (Gambetta, René Magritte, author of a false Origin of the World, André Masson who created a drawing-cache for Lacan) make the story very spicy. To be read like a detective story.

• Le Roman de l’origine par Bernard Teyssèdre, Gallimard, 546 p., 2007, ISBN : 978-2-07-078411-0, 25 €

Le Roman de l’origine -  Bernard Teyssèdre

Review published in the newsletter #50 - from 7 June 2007 to 13 June 2007

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