Facebook censors 150-year-old Courbet painting

This is a French TV video, about Facebook censoring Gustave Courbet‘s painting L’origine du monde in 2011.

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands, today:

In France, a teacher and Facebook argue today about a 149 year old painting. The man posted in 2011 a picture of L’Origine du Monde (The Origin of the World) by Gustave Courbet on his Facebook page, and the social media corporation deleted his account.

The painting shows the naked lower body of a woman lying on a bed, pudendal towards the viewer. An Ottoman ambassador in Paris is said to have commissioned Courbet’s painting for his personal erotica collection in 1866.

Facebook considers the work of art to be offensive. The teacher, in his fifties, an art lover and a father of three, thinks that is absurd. The judge will as of today consider whether it is pornography or art.


For Facebook, there is even more at stake. In its rules, it says that in case of litigation US law prevails. Against that, the French teacher has already been objected successfully . The French court deems itself competent to consider the case.

Facebook did not agree with that and appealed. “It will be a long legal battle,” says correspondent Ron Linker.

The original of the painting which measures 50 by 50 centimeters hangs in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. “When you walk towards the painting, there is an accompanying text, in which the museum warns that this painting does not cease to shock” says Linker. “That’s one and a half a century later still the case, perhaps exactly what the artist wanted.”

Cases of art censorship on Facebook continue to surface. The latest work deemed “pornographic” is the 30,000 year-old nude statue famously known as the Venus of Willendorf, part of the Naturhistorisches Museum (NHM) collection in Vienna. An image of the work posted on Facebook by Laura Ghianda, a self-described “artivist”, was removed as inappropriate content despite four attempts to appeal the decision.: here.

“Edouard Manet’s ‘Olympia’ scandalized nearly everyone when it was first exhibited at the 1865 Paris Salon, its nude subject confronting the viewer with an unflinching gaze and brazen sexuality. Francisco Goya’s Nude Maja, created over half of a century earlier, was similarly shocking, both because of the model’s visible pubic hair and palpable lack of shame. A third equally heretical and pivotal nude painting, however, is often erased from the conversation: American artist Romaine Brooks’ 1910 ‘White Azaleas.'” (Read more here)

“As art lovers know all too well, the art history canon is also subjected to censorship on social media, with boobies crafted by the greatest minds in art history deemed overly scandalous for Facebook, even hundreds of years after their creation. So, we’ve decided to tidy up these naughty archives, replacing the womanly nipples of yore with their masculine (and totally, obviously unobjectionable) counterparts.” (Read more here)

Journalist Laurie Penny banned from Facebook for using pseudonym: here.

French painter Gustave Courbet

This video says about itself:

A Mockumentary about Gustave Courbet, the French realist painter. See puppets bring to life the intriguing story of the man brave enough to use a pallette knife and stand against the wave of current trends.

By Clare Hurley:

The art of Gustave Courbet in his epoch and in ours

10 October 2008

“[They] call me ‘the socialist painter.’ I accept that title with pleasure. I am not only a socialist but a democrat and a Republican as well—in a word, a partisan of all the revolution and above all a Realist … for ‘Realist’ means a sincere lover of the honest truth.” [1]

While artists go in and out of fashion for various reasons, the renewed interest of late in French painter Gustave Courbet (1819-1877) corresponds to a turn in the contemporary art scene toward a model of the political artist and a rediscovered conception of realism that is encouraging. The retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum in New York this past spring was the first time since the centenary of Courbet’s death thirty years ago that such a large exhibition of this far from obscure painter’s work has been mounted. A smaller exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum in 1988 followed the centenary show in London and Paris, but there has been no significant exhibition since then in the United States.

In his own lifetime Courbet’s larger-than-life image as an artist with political “attitude” earned him censure from bourgeois circles. Ridiculed in the popular press of the day as arrogant and uncouth and a poor painter, Courbet, far from being stung by the criticism, proudly proclaimed himself to be “the proudest and most arrogant man in France.”

The Metropolitan’s exhibition perhaps overemphasized this image of Courbet as an attention-hound whose egotism welcomed scandal. Egotism and ambition were undeniably aspects of Courbet’s personality, but these characteristics were not just the self-aggrandizement of a career-driven artist. In a larger sense, they were an expression of the revolutionary confidence of Courbet’s generation, reflecting the emergence of the modern working class and its first political awakening. Why should only rotten people be presumptuous?

For it cannot be emphasized enough that Courbet’s artistic career opened with the Revolution of 1848 and closed with the Paris Commune of 1871. While the degree to which he participated directly in these events has been questioned, on the one hand, and held against him, on the other; his assertive self-confidence and impassioned belief in the artist’s role in leading “the people”—broadly conceived—into a free and egalitarian future were shaped by these events.