Gustave Courbet

L’Origine du monde

Gustave Courbet, L’origine du monde, 1866

Part Five Chapter 6

When you surprised yourself in the mirror, when you became a stranger to yourself, who was the who you dreamt yourself to be?

̶ Mirror, mirror, tell no lies, how do I look in Courbet’s eyes?
̶ The arabesques of your shirt rise to reveal the fullness of your breast; the lustre of your belly throws into relief the intoxicating cleft: Unspeakable, overabounding, your demonic majesty sends a shudder down the observer’s spine: Trembling in blank wonder, he is blinded by the sun. And yet it is night that resides between your thighs, it is darkness that radiates this light. He is no longer master of his own eyes: It is you who strain toward him, it is you who compel his gaze.
̶ My demon twin, so intimate, so alien, your devastating presence takes my breath away. How you move me! There was a time when I disowned you, taking you for a foreign body. I couldn’t accept your black magic, I couldn’t bear how you shattered my self-image. In a frenzy of friction I tried to make you mine: the greater was my frustration. Then a day finally came when I could reclaim you, and on that day I bought a new dress: A dress to make whole the two halves of my body, a dress to integrate the top and the bottom. Alas, it was not the dress that would give a final certainty to my femininity! And so relentlessly I pursued the enigma of my desire, and so incessantly I renewed my second skin.