L’Origine: The Secret Life of the World’s Most Erotic Masterpiece – Lilianne Milgrom

A fascinating story of Gustave Courbet’s fabled painting, L’Origine du monde

In 2011, the author arrived in Paris to begin an extended artist residency and visited the Orsay Museum before settling in on her work. During the visit, she was captivated by the celebrated work, The Origin of the World, by Gustave Courbet, a realistic portrait of a supine woman’s exposed genitals (no face, arms, or legs). She was compelled to apply to be a copyist at the museum with L’Origine du Monde as her subject. Over the next seven weeks, she attempted to reproduce Courbet’s iconic work, all the while under the watchful and curious eyes of thousands of daily museum-goers. The copyist’s goal is to expand their skills and techniques as they try to duplicate the actions of the masters, but Milgron got more than this. She also gained insight into the world’s view of what a woman is, what it means to be female, and a deeper regard for her own femininity and sexuality. She also became determined to discover the history behind the museum’s mythic painting and one of its most prized possessions.

L’Origine presents the work’s journey from Courbet’s first imagining through creation in 1866 to its various owners. Due to its controversial subject matter, it was kept hidden out of sight for decades, only shared with a few select friends of each owner, but its existence was whispered about and speculated upon for years. Lost during World War II, it surfaced once again, and through a series of private transactions, it finally returned to Paris, the home of its birth, and became a treasured part of the Orsay’s collection.

This fictional account of how the painting came to be displayed and viewed by more than a million visitors a year at the Orsay Museum was a highly satisfying story. Beginning with the author’s artist residency in Paris, the trip back through time was both magical and eye-opening. I learned so many interesting things about that time period in Paris when Courbet was active, the Realism movement, his contemporaries, and the effects on the art world by what was going on politically at that time. Some of the painting’s owners were in the thick of a hotbed of political unrest and, eventually, war in Europe.

I especially appreciated Milgrom’s recounting of her own experiences at the museum in Paris while a copyist. Her stories of the reactions of the visitors viewing the painting were varied and telling and did cause me to contemplate my own feelings about the work and the subject as well as historic and modern ideas regarding women’s sexuality. There are some excellent, thought-provoking questions for discussion at the end of the book.

I recommend L’Origine: The Secret Life of the World’s Most Erotic Masterpiece by Lilianne Milgrom to readers of historical fiction and especially to those interested in the world of art or art history.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author.

Lilianne Milgrom

on Tour January 18-29 with L'Origine  

L’Origine: The Secret Life Of The World’s Most Erotic Masterpiece

(historical fiction) Release date: July 28, 2020 at Little French Girl Press 255 pages

2020 Indie B.R.A.G. Medallion Award


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L’Origine‘ traces the extraordinary, clandestine odyssey of an iconic 19th century painting that shook up the author’s world and continues to scandalize all who set eyes upon it. Gustave Courbet’s portrait of a woman’s exposed torso and sex – audaciously entitled ‘L’Origine du monde’ (The Origin of the World) – was so shocking it was kept hidden for a century and a half, surviving revolution, Nazi plunder and the foibles of its eccentric owners. Today it draws millions of visitors to Paris’ Orsay Museum. Lilianne Milgrom brings a fresh, feminine perspective to an iconic work of art created specifically for the male gaze. ‘L’Origine‘ offers readers more than a riveting romp through history–it also reflects society’s complex attitude towards female nudity.
NB: this is a historical novel, no explicit scenes


L'Origine - Lilianne MilgromLilianne Milgrom Paris-born Lilianne Milgrom is an award-winning international artist, writer on the arts and author. Her art can be found in both private and institutional collections around the world and her articles have been published in Huffington Post, Daily Art Magazine, Ceramics Now and Bonjour Paris. Her 5-star, bestselling novel ‘L’Origine‘ is the result of ten years of research and was accepted into the Historical Novel Society. Lilianne lives in Washington DC with her husband. Follow the author on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram Join her mailing list
You can enter the global giveaway here or on any other book blog participating in this tour. Visit/Follow the participating blogs on Facebook/Twitter, as listed in the entry form below, and win more entry points!


Tweeting about the giveaway everyday of the Tour will give you 5 extra entries each time! [just follow the directions on the entry-form] Global giveaway open to all 5 winners will receive an ecopy of this book



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Filed under Book Reviews, Historical fiction

18 responses to “L’Origine: The Secret Life of the World’s Most Erotic Masterpiece – Lilianne Milgrom

  1. liliannemilgrom

    Thank you for taking the time to read and for writing such a thoughtful and enthusiastic review!

  2. Pingback: Lilianne Milgrom on tour: L’Origine | France Book Tours

  3. Wow, thanks for your enthusiasm. I’m thrilled you learned so much through the book and really enjoyed it. Emma at France Book Tours

  4. Your enthusiasm about this one speaks volumes. Thank you for sharing!

  5. Your review has intrigued me, this isn’t a book I would have looked at or picked up on my own, thanx for sharing the info!

    • I liked the synopsis I read on France Booktours website. But it had not popped up in any of my other recommendation sources berfore then. I was very happy to have been alerted to it and given the opportunity to read and review it.

  6. bitchbookshelf

    Oooh I am so intrigued! This is definitely my kind of read. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  7. Vidya Tiru

    not sure if i would have picked it up myself or looked at it. now your review intrigues

  8. I’m not an art lover so I don’t even know the painting. Glad you liked the book.

  9. Pingback: L’Origine: tour quotations | France Book Tours

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