L’Origine du monde (The Origin of the World)

Warning: This post contains images of human genitalia that some readers might find objectionable or otherwise not safe for work.

Today Boingboing linked to a photograph of two towers created by artist Jack Daws using only McDonald’s french fries and Heinz ketchup. Think freedom fries. Think freedom tower. Think September 11th. Think American cultural imperialism. Think our childish, naive approach to foreign policy.

Think how perfectly rectangular those McDonald’s fries are.

Jack Daws' photograph, Two Towers, made out of McDonald's french fries and Heinz ketchup
Two Towers by Jack Daws

So I scrolled down through the Greg Kucera Gallery’s online exhibition of Daws’ August 2003 show (mostly looking for something I had been warned would be NSFW) when I stumbled upon another piece I’m sure I’d heard about before, but don’t remember ever seeing.

The title of the work is Origins of the World—which is funny. The extreme close-ups of female genitalia is kitschy. The family-oriented multi-photo frame is blisteringly ironic. Turning hardcore graphic porn into art is hilarious. The whole thing is also kind of gross.

Jack Daws' mixed media, Origins of the World (after Courbet)
Origins of the World (after Courbet) by Jack Daws

But there’s a not so hidden allusion there. The full title of the piece is Origins of the World (after Courbet). Hmm. Who’s Courbet? And what could he possibly have to do with this artwork?

According to the Wikipedia, Gustave Courbet was a French realist who believed an “artist’s mission was the pursuit of truth which would help erase social contradictions and imbalances.” And he happens to be famous for a similarly titled painting, L’Origine du monde (The Origin of the World), conveying the very same tongue-in-cheek juxtaposition of our bodies and our taboos. Which I like, quite a lot.

Gustave Courbet's painting, L'Origine du monde (The Origin of the World)
L’Origine du monde by Gustave Courbet

Jack Daws’ Origins of the World (after Courbet) reminds me of the artist Adam Connelly, who takes pornographic photos and pixelates them to such a large scale that you can’t rationally call the paint on the canvas porn, and yet the mind still sees a pornographic image. Which is such a brilliant way of suggesting that the porn may only exist in our heads.

Adam Connelly's painting, '011.jpg'
011.jpg by Adam Connelly

Update: It’s worth pointing out the French artist ORLAN’s inspired take on Courbet’s painting, aptly named, L’Origine de la guerre. I love the frame.

Orlan's painting, L'Origine de la guerre (The Origin of War)
L’Origine de la guerre by ORLAN


I love the French fries pictures. They look good.

Working with that many cold french fries would be unpleasant.

BTW, I let my child do anything he wants on the Internet. Today, he stumbled on your dirty pictures of naked hoohaws and asked me where babies come from. I’m offended. I demand you cease and desist that picture right now.

dude! i had a couple of posts a while back on my blog about pubes in art prior to the 20th century. if only i had known about Courbet’s L’Origine du monde!! What a fab image. This could be the motherload of 19th-century pubes!

Love your blog. I’m adding you to my blogroll.


dude, are you TRYING to get your site blocked on my stupid work firewall forever? ;)

I applaud you, culturally relevant friend. I want to parade you about at parties.

Best quote, from my own blog!

the motherload of 19th-century pubes

But I’m also liking Joy’s:

I demand you cease and desist that picture right now.

Your site is inspiring – reminds me of some of the discussions I had with friends when I was much younger.

chris soleil

Bravo for your blog and specially “the origin of the world”.
I’m not shocked by the female genatalia’s pictures because it’s a part of our body like our lips, eyes, feet …
Please continue to be the Justin I know. Thank you for sharing your knowledge.
I love very much
By the way, did you cut your hairs ?

Chris, I’m so happy you left a comment, and I’m glad you enjoyed my post about this interesting art I discovered the other day.

Of course it would be wonderful to see the actual L’Origine du monde in the Musée d’Orsay. Perhaps I’ll have a chance to visit it in Paris someday…

Good news, Stephanie cut all my hairs tonight. You’d be proud. It looks very good. And feels good too.


Joy, maybe instead of trying to censor art you should censor what your child does on the internet? And aside from that everybody should at some point learn “where babies come from” and the correct term for parts of their body. Vaginas are perfectly natural, they aren’t dirty and this is art anyhow.

beccah, no worries, I know Joy and she was just being facetious.

I found a painting under the name Phalluzoïde ou L’Origine du Sexe. Maybe it put the question what was first : the egg or the chicken ?


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