The Sleepers

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Le Sommeil-Gustave Courbet 1866

Inspired by Charles Baudelaire’s poem Femmes damnees Delphine et Hippolyte (Damned Women Delphine and Hippolyte) from his famous collection Fleurs du mal (Flowers of Evil) which had resulted in prosecution, a hefty fine and the suppression of  six poems as an insult to public decency upon its initial publication, Courbet’s masterful realist erotic painting Le Sommeil (The Sleepers) with its provocative depiction of lesbianism led to a police report when it was first shown in 1872 and was not subsequently allowed to be publicly exhibited until 1988.

1866 was also the year that Courbet completed a commission for his most famous erotic painting L’Origine du monde (The Origin of the World) with its graphic close up view of a naked woman’s genitals and abdomen. In February 2016 a Paris court has ruled that Facebook may be sued in France for removing the image from users pages.