Lilianne Milgromon Tour January 18-29 with
L’Origine: The Secret Life Of The World’s Most Erotic Masterpiece(historical fiction) Release date: July 28, 2020 at Little French Girl Press 255 pages
2020 Indie B.R.A.G. Medallion Award***
I had another chance to pull back the curtains of the art world in the novel L'Origine by Lilianne Milgrom. The novel explores the life of the painting L'Origine du Monde by French artist Gustave Courbet. Not familiar with the painting? Neither was I, but don't look it up. Wait until after you've read the book.
Milgrom is also an artist, and the novel begins as a biography. She travels to Paris and asks permission to paint or "copy" L'Origine du Monde in the Musee d'Orsay. The title L'Origine du Monde means the beginning of the world or the start of the world, and it is known as an early erotic painting of a woman's torso and vagina. I really enjoyed joining Milgrom as she painted in Paris each day, responding to museum goers and their curiosity.
I didn't realize the book was then switching to fiction as it jumped back to the 1800s and followed the artist Courbet's life. After the painting left Courbet, the reader continues to follow it as it switched hands in back deals, never actually seeing the light of day until the late 1900s. The author did a good job creating these historic scenes and characters as she kept the painting at the center of the world events; through World Wars and fallen governments, the hidden painting continued to exist in secret. This book was a smart read with good continuity and writing that kept me hooked. It definitely made me curious about the painting and I'll make a beeline to see it next time I'm in Paris.
I received a copy of the title from the publisher for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
(Spoiler alert: about the painting) From the pictures I've seen online, I'm not a great fan of the painting. Courbet was a realist painter, but perhaps this painting would have benefitted from a bit of impressionism. The vagina doesn't bother me, it's the rest of the painting. It looks a bit grotesque because of the lack of arms and head. The breasts seem stretched and misshapen because of the twisted torso. In the novel, Milgrom writes that Simone de Beauvoir said the painting depicted women the way men liked them, no head (brain) just breasts and vagina. I can see her point. I'm also puzzled that men looked at this painting erotically. It doesn't seem sexy to me.