The shocking, sensual, and untold story of the world’s most scandalous painting, this work of historical fiction traces Courbet’s masterpiece L’Origine du monde (The Origin of the World) from its creation in 1866 to its journey through time, featuring French revolutionaries, Turkish pashas, nefarious Nazi captains, and more.
Winner of 5 major book awards, including the PublishersWeekly U.S.2021 Selfies Award for Best Adult Fiction and winner of the IndieReader 2021Discovery Award.
“L’Origine got me hooked—what a story! Milgrom brings the reader right along on her adventures as a copyist of one of the most well-known paintings in all the world.” —Harriet Welty Rochefort, author of French Fried, French Toast, Joie de Vivre, and Final Transgression
The riveting odyssey of one of the world’s most scandalous works of art.
In 1866, maverick French artist Gustave Courbet painted one of the most iconic images in the history of art: a sexually explicit portrait of a woman’s exposed genitals. Audaciously titled L’Origine du monde (The Origin of the World), the scandalous painting was kept hidden for a century and a half. Today, it hangs in the world-renowned Orsay Museum in Paris, viewed by millions of visitors a year.
As the first artist authorized by the Orsay Museum to re-create Courbet’s The Origin of the World, author Lilianne Milgrom was thrust into the painting’s intimate orbit, spending six weeks replicating every fold, crevice, and pubic hair. The experience inspired her to share her story and the painting’s riveting clandestine history with readers beyond the confines of the art world.
L’Origine is an entertaining and superbly researched work of historical fiction that traces the true story of the painting’s unlikely tale of survival, replete with French revolutionaries, Turkish pashas, and nefarious Nazi captains. But L’Origine is more than a riveting romp through history—it also sheds light on society’s complex relationship with the female body.