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Quatre années d’enquête d’analyses et d’expertises, pour vous révéler un trésor inconnu peint secrètement par Gustave Courbet en 1866 : L’Extase.

Tout commence un triste après-midi de Janvier 2010, où la pluie bat le pavé parisien ; Je rentre m’abriter dans une petite boutique d’antiquaire de quartier. Elle  tombe bien cette averse, et l’antiquaire aussi…


Une petite toile mal éclairée, non encadrée, capte mon regard. Attiré par une force magnétique, je m’en approche comme aimanté : Un Portrait de Femme.

L’impression de bonheur sensuel du visage féminin représenté, me saisit. Cette femme est vivante;  superbe touche vigoureuse, qui semble indiquer qu'il s'agit là de l'œuvre d'un artiste confirmé; d’un style très réaliste et classique; une carnation parfaite, fabuleusement modelée; un vrai chef-d’œuvre, que je voulais déjà ! Je retourne la toile : châssis à clefs typiquement XIXème, toile d’époque, un vague cachet tamponné à l’encre sur le revers.

quelques instants plus tard je ressortis de la boutique, la facture en poche et « ma Belle » bien emballée sous le bras.Ce portrait féminin très particulier éveillait sans réserve toute ma curiosité. Ne rien savoir de cette jeune femme mystérieuse qui me procurait une émotion indéfinissable, m’interpellait.Une envie de découverte de l’autre, savoir qui est-elle ? Une puissante énergie émanait de cette femme qui avait une âme…

Je retournais le tableau et constatais que les quatre côtés de la toile, sur les chants du châssis, étaient peints et que la bordure était grossièrement découpée. Etrange… me disais-je. Serait-ce le morceau d’une œuvre plus grande ? J’observais la coupure de la toile, qui avait été pratiquée sur la base du cou. 


Après avoir longuement contemplé l’expression fabuleuse et sensuelle du visage de cette femme qui vivait encore malgré sa décapitation, la chasse à l’assassin qui l’avait mutilé, allait commencer tout doucement cette nuit-là sans que je m’en doute. Penché sur la victime comme l’aurait fait un légiste, j’observais à la lumière d’un projecteur.



L’œuvre est petite, mais l’art y est immense !


An unknown treasure

secretly painted by

Gustave Courbet

This is about how a ground breaking investigation into the world of the arts, brings to light at last, the mystery behind Gustave Courbet’s most famous painting, The Origin of the World.

You are going to discover a stunning and great work of art created in secret by the master in 1866 and totally unknown to this day, L’Extase. (Ecstasy)

This work was the main pivot in a daring but by no means vulgar series on feminine voluptuousness:

Before…. During…. After….   pleasure.

So true to life, without trickery and of an insolent beauty, never before had an artist put such burning, carnal and lifelike desire into a painting.

Alas, this miracle of sensuality only survived intact for three months.  It was revealed with the utmost secrecy to the very rich Turk, Khalil-bey, who immediately wished to acquire it.

Out of respect for his mistress Johanna who had been his model, Courbet divided up l’Extase into several small paintings and only sold him one, exquisitely framed but importantly, anonymous.

Without a face and without a name, this little jewel of femininity would finally be called in the following century “L’Origine du monde” (« The Origin of the World »).

However the rediscovery of l’Extase (Ecstasy) is somewhat bothering…for since the entry of « The Origin of the World » into the Orsay museum in 1995, the curators have been forced to hide its true identity and thus been able to create a Myth.  With the aim of boosting the appeal of the museum they even thought of benefitting further from the story by raising this small fragment of the painting to the level of absolute masterpiece; « The Mona Lisa of Orsay »

You will also learn about the apparition of a tangible miracle, elaborated in 2014 in the corridors of the Orsay Museum, destined to bury once and for all l’Extase,  (Ecstasy) which had become too embarrassing.

However, when historical and technical proof comes to the surface, can one continue to deceive the public by the denial of a creation and thus sacrifice the History of Art on the altar of Cupidity?

This is the question for our Minister of Culture.


Four years of investigation, analyses and

expertise to reveal an unknown treasure secretly painted by Gustave Courbet in 1866:

L ‘EXTASE (Ecstasy)


Everything begins in Paris, on one dull afternoon in January 2010, in the pouring rain; I find shelter in a small antique shop in the area.  This shower of rain, as well as encountering the shop owner, turns out to be a lucky chance ….


A small painting badly lit and unframed catches my eye. Attracted as if by a magnetic force, I come upon what turns out to be a portrait of a woman.

l'origine du monde

The impression of sensual delight represented in the face, captures my attention.  This woman is alive; the vigorous brush strokes indicate that it is a work by a confirmed artist; it is of a realistic and classical style; the face has perfect complexion and is fabulously formed, a real masterpiece that I already wanted to own! I turn the painting over: a wooden frame typical of the nineteenth century, canvas of the era, and an unclear stamp in ink on the back.

A few minutes later I walked out of the shop, the sales receipt in my pocket and « my Beauty » wrapped up and under my arm. This rather special portrait of a woman stirred my curiosity unreservedly.  To know nothing about this mysterious young person inspired an indefinable emotion and even made me question myself.  I needed to find out who she was.  A strong energy flowed from this woman who possessed a soul…

I turned the painting over and found that where the four corners of the canvas were attached to the frame, they had been painted and that the edge had been roughly cut.  Strange…. I said to myself. 

Could this be part of a larger work ?  I observed where the canvas had been cut at the base of her neck.

l'origine du monde
l'origine du monde



After contemplating at length the fabulous and sensual expression of the face of this woman who was still alive in spite of decapitation, the hunt for the assassin who had mutilated her was to begin slowly but surely that night, without my fully realising it. Leaning over the victim like a coroner, I observed her in the light of a projector.




l'origine du monde


This is crazy…this is unbelievable…I have found the face of the origin of the world !

While searching for as much information as possible about the Master, I spend long hours on the web looking for reference sites. One evening purely by accident, surfing on the website of the Orsay museum I find myself looking in awe at an image of his most famous painting:

L’Origine du monde  (The Origin of the world).

My eye pauses a moment on this wonder and even before analysing the details, an insidious question runs through my mind: Why this frame ? Why this headless body ? Why this cut up petticoat ? Why look, my Beauty is also wearing a cut up petticoat over her shoulders !!!  And then and there.. an intuition or should I say a huge inspiration overcomes me… I jump up; I print a photo to scale. I then overlay the portrait of my Beauty upon it with a slight offset to follow the spine…


What a shock !  I was overwhelmed by the extraordinary revelation of this overlay; the expression on the face convulsed by a surge of blood and the obvious heightened awareness of feeling explained the torsion and position of the body: A woman in utter ecstasy before my eyes !  I was on top of the world !  So, the unusual framing of the Origin of the world displaying the incompleteness of the body that one senses must continue somewhere, can be perfectly explained:  A Cut Out !



Here are some of the many ways of
substantiating evidence
The stamp of the canvas supplier DEFORGE CARPENTIER
on the back of the portrait
l'origine du monde






This sign only lasted from 1858 to 1869.

It so happens that Courbet changed his supplier of painting material in June 1864 precisely, he left Haro; guess where he went to find his supplies?  To Deforge Carpentier, and one year before attacking the project of l’Extase to boot…

In a letter on December 8th 1864, he even told his friend P.J. Proudhon to go and see: Venus et Psyche at Deforge Carpentier. It must not be forgotten that Venus and Psyche was the first painting in « the series of pleasures »


The woman who modelled for the Lady with the parrot

is Johanna Hifferman his mistress

l'origine du monde

The lady with the parrot   ( MET, NY )

l'origine du monde

Johanna in ecstasy and seized with emotion and bliss

The Jô herself, The Jô with such beautiful hair, she too had been celebrated and with what a paintbrush! The Master Courbet in his « Lady with a Parrot », enjoyed reminding us of her features and he brought them to life on many canvases with a sense of love!

The above is an extract from a work that came out in 1879, just two years after Courbet’s death, entitled « The Poet Eugene Cressot (from Dijon) and biographer Jules Valles »

The same mouth, the same teeth, the same chin, and the same nose even the hair with its rich mahogany waves, the same brown eyes, the same long eyelashes.  The only difference is that Courbet’s signature can be seen in the ear of l’Extase.


Lacan and the Origin of the world


The famous psychoanalyst Jaques Lacan bought the Origin of the world from the Baron of Hatvany in 1954.  He and his wife Sylvia kept the painting until their respective deaths and their daughter then made a gift of it to the nation in 1995 as payment for the death duties.  Sylvia Lacan’s brother-in-law who was the painter André Masson, found himself with the task of disguising this painting so that « children and neighbours would not be able to understand… ». He created a wooden panel that could easily be drawn across the frame and upon which he painted an abstract representation of the painting itself, placing it almost identically as the original.

Erotic Earth by André Masson

l'origine du monde

What a surprise to discover that a year later he made a large drawing in ink and water colour (49X65 cm) entitled the Origin of the world and which repeated the curves found in Erotic Earth, but this time representing the whole of Johanna with a head of hair of the same colour as her pubic hair, auburn.

l'origine du monde

"The Origin of the World" by André Masson

Masson had therefore learnt from his sister-in-law, Sylvia Lacan, the secret of the cutting up of this painting.


The Cutting up of the Origin of the world



In an article published in Le Monde Illustré on January 25th 1879, the journalist Jules Noriac describes his visit to Khalil-Bey’s flat, which he made at the beginning of 1868 in the company of a friend of the Nabab, Mr Garin de la Morflans:

" Some of the most well known masterpieces were lying on the floor waiting to be auctioned.  Their canvases were all that was left of the millions once owned by the Turc.

- Here, this is a very strange Courbet my cicerone said to me.

Looking at the back of a large painting on the wall:

- This work has a name and is very well known by amateurs.

On demand from an amateur, the artist had undermined his talent by painting an unspeakable subject professionally.

Another canvas of about a metre painted by the same artist lay on the floor next to the other one.

- This is not a painting?

- No only a simple fragment of it.

It was said so spontaneously that even Zola himself would have been delighted "

The two paintings by Courbet being referred to were

- For the large painting: Les Gougnottes, which today is known as Le Sommeil, (Sleep.)

- The small one: The Origin of the world.



Both paintings present the same technical elements

  • The same linen canvas ( 14 x 15 threads Cm2, counting the loops)

  • The same pigments (following laboratory analysis)

  • The scale of the motifs is the same in both paintings.

  • The connection between the two paintings is equally verifiable both in scenic consistence as in physical approximation. (Light, shading range, complexion, position, petticoat above and below)

  • The existence of several weft threads that follow on perfectly on the two x-rays of the paintings, when they are matched with the mark left by the former central bar of the large original painting.

X-ray: the lower left hand part of Visage Secret (the Secret Face)

The higher right hand angle of The origin of the world

l'origine du monde

IThe horizontal support of the wooden stretcher

In RED, appear the vertical overlapping gaps, most likely caused by pressure from the original painting (before being cut up) on another canvas of which the vertical traverse would have altered the pictorial layer.

(Courbet stacked his paintings against the walls of his studio)

In BLUE, the most visible weft threads following each other.


Marks left by the former central bar that continue across both paintings

Photos in low-angled light

l'origine du monde

Eye from the secret face

Left thigh from the Origin of the world

l'origine du monde
These two photos were taken using two different techniques and two different lighting methods, which explains the difference in the shine of the varnish.

Authentication by the Gustave Courbet expert: Jean-Jacques Fernier


On January 15th 2013, Mr Jean-Jacques Fernier returned his final

report of expertise to me, validating my hypothesis.  He attached to the file a second sketch of his final vision of the reconstitution, presenting Johanna with her two arms stretched out above her head.

Extract from the final report of expertise:

“ The conclusions of the analysis carried out confirm that your Portrait of a Woman belongs to the body of the model represented in the famous ORIGIN OF THE WORLD, and therefore lift ipso-facto any doubts expressed in my opinion of August 2nd 2012. This portrait of JO HIFFERMAN, actual measurements 33 x 41 cm, painted in oil on tightly woven canvas, similar to that of The origin of the world, is therefore part of the latter, recognizably by Gustave Courbet; it is therefore in this way that it will be registered in tome 111 of the “Catalogue Raisonné de Gustave Courbet” (descriptive catalogue) which is being prepared under my authority.”

Jean Jacques Fernier


Vice – President de L’institut Courbet

Conservateur du Patrimonie

Drawing by Jean-Jacques Fernier

l'origine du monde

The Miraculous apparition of new Stretcher Marks

The origin of the world did not have any stretcher marks in 2007:

The 2007 Analysis report of C2RMF (the Laboratory of the Museums of France) specified on page 2 “ The painting has been lined with new canvas quite recently: the original stretcher marks disappeared during this operation or during a previous intervention.”

And as luck would have it, it was only in 2014, one year after the announcement in Paris Match of the discovery of the secret face of the Origin of the world that new stretcher marks miraculously appeared around the Origin of the world.

Were they not destined to bury once and for all l’ Extase (Ecstasy), which had become too embarrassing ?

You will find the answer to this question in the “la Face Cachée de l’Origine du monde” (“The Hidden Face of the Origin of the world”)


  • The testimony of Elizabeth Roudinesco (Jacques Lacan’s Biographer), who tells us that he bought the Origin of the world to observe at his leisure all the shortcomings in this painting, more specifically: agitated face, a look almost at the point of fainting and   her limbs seemingly moving uncontrollably; A woman in ecstasy…. (The written word)

  • The testimony of Maxime Du Camp, who saw the Origin of the world at the home of Khalil-bey and informs us that it came from a portrait of a woman in an extremely emotional and agitated state, and he also explains that Courbet had cut it up in return for gold from the Nabab.

  • The Evidence from Arsène Houssey, who informs us that Khalil-Bey, had bought “Brunehaut” the image of a fragmented queen…

  • The evidence from Jules Troubat, narrating the result of the cutting up of the central work of a series made by Courbet on pleasure: Before, During, After….

  • The monogram of Gustave Courbet incorporated into the Ear of Johanna

  • The joint evidence given by Emile Zola and Paul Cézanne, who both had shared in the unveiling of L’Extase (Ecstasy) by Courbet.

  • The absolute proof from Cézanne, drawing l’Extase with Johanna complete, her bird above her right hand and her ear signed.

  • Pictorial evidence by the famous sculptor Auguste Rodin, friend of Baron Ferenc de Hatvany, who drew “The creation of the world before it had been cut up”

  • The evidence of Emile de Girardin, who in 1871 tells us about the two obscene paintings belonging to Khalil.Bey, painted by Courbet, “The Untold” and The Gougnottes.                                                                                                                

AND EVEN MORE to be found, in the book to be published,





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The investigation that followed, in order to discover her secret.



Such a captivating work deserved my full attention, taking into account both the subject and creator.

The only clue in my possession and with which the whole investigation was to begin was the deciphering of the name of the supplier stamped on the back of the painting.

I needed four whole days of observation, bending over the back of the painting from every angle, to make out:


.......VARD MONTMA....


To be able to identify this stamp, access to the list of dealers in art supplies of the nineteenth century was necessary.

The solution: start my search in the library of the Louvre where a massive amount of studies of all kinds on artists, their work and suppliers could be found.

First Discovery:

Approximate date of birth of the victim.

Two afternoons of investigation later, I had found the first serious clue concerning the painting: the list of dealers in art supplies of the nineteenth century with their addresses, seals and dates concerning their working life.

The stamp on the back of my painting became clear.





A search for authorship: the list of suspects

A few weeks later, I related my adventure to a friend who then asked me to entrust him with the painting in order to present it to several experts.  One of them suggested the possibility that it was Carolus Duran, who in fact was on my list. Sylvie Brame of the Brame and Lorenceau gallery, expert on painting of the 19th century and specialist on Carolus Duran was then consulted and indicated to us that the painting had not been painted by this artist, however she leant more towards the workmanship of Gustave Courbet


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