Courbet’s painting could be described as the original upskirt shot, portraying as it does the lower part of a woman’s body with her sexual organs displayed.
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Courbet was famous for his realistic style.
But Paris Match claims to have tracked down the top half of the painting - the head of a woman tilted back with the mouth half open.
The magazine quotes experts who are convinced that it is by Courbet and is stylistically very close to L’Origine du Monde.
And at least one, Jean-Jacques Fernier, believes that it was cut off the infamous work now hanging in Paris’s Musée d’Orsay after being secreted in an apartment for decades.
Its owner, known as “John” to the weekly, says that he bought the work from a Parisian antiques dealer in 2010 for 1,400 euros.
L’Origine du Monde is now on show in the Musée d’Orsay and “John” told Paris Match that he would like to lend his painting to the institution.
The museum, which has previously rejected suggestions that there were any missing parts to the painting, refused to comment on Thursday.