L'Origine du Monde, 1866
We will have to wait until French experts have done a more professional job of digitally reuniting the two parts to be more sure. I can't see them attempting to actually 'restore' it. Perhaps it will end up being displayed like Manet's almost exactly contemporaneous Execution of Maximilian (1867-8) in the London National Gallery, which has also suffered radical dismemberment since it was painted (the art market is to blame for that).
If the Courbet head just discovered is indeed the excised part of the painting it will be an extraordinary art historical find, although not, perhaps, in the same league as the disinterment of Richard III's skeleton beneath a Leicester Car Park.
|Jean-Jacques Fernier of the Courbet Institute unites the fragments|
Courbet's 'Origin' was often wheeled out on such occasions. It will be interesting to see how art historians deconstruct the marriage of the two separated portions. The possibilities for psychoanalytic interpretation are surely endless. Oh to hear what Lacan might have said. On other other hand, maybe not.
Image above right: Photograph: Jacky Naegelen/Reuters