The National Museum of Western Art

update 14 September 2021

Currently not on display

Gustave Courbet [Ornans, 1819 - La Tour-de-Peilz, 1877]

Sleeping Nude

Materials/Techniquesoil on canvas
Size (cm)50 x 64
InscriptionsSigned and dated lower left: .. 58 Gustave Courbet
Credit LinePurchased
Standard ref.Fernier 228
Collection NumberP.1996-0001
Sleeping Nude

The paintings of nude women displayed in public venues such as the Salon were given the most ideal proportions and a smooth skin surface, and placed in some mythological or Oriental context in order to sublimate the purely carnal nature of the image. Conversely, quite a few paintings or prints for private display in individual's bedrooms were created with either erotic images of women or erotic acts. Courbet sought to disrupt this dual standard for images of nudes by frequently entering nudes in the Salon that had not been idealized, so-called "ugly" nudes. Sleeping Nude is one of these bedroom pictures depicting a woman asleep on a bed by a window, and thus can be placed in the lineage of the "nudes in a landscape" genre created by the Venetian school, starting with Giorgione and Titian. However, here the private scene of a nude woman in a bedroom and the view out the window reminiscent of the painter's home town in the Franche-Comté region makes the image much more realistic than a Venus set in a pastoral scene. Consequently, the viewer is made strongly aware that he or she is peeping into a private space, a bedroom in which a nude woman is sleeping. The curtains hung in the window and the red bed curtains seem to frame the nude, while also revealing the landscape. Considering that Courbet frequently displayed a tendency to consider his landscapes and nudes in the same terms, clearly it can be thought that both the nude woman in the interior and the landscape outside were directed at the male gaze, and the combination mutually heightens the effects of that gaze. Sleeping Nude derives originally from images of Venus in a pastoral scene, and here the window connects the two. In spite of the fact that this strips away the mythological nature of the work and heightens the sense of secrecy, undoubtedly the painting is in tune with the viewer's joint desire for nature and the woman. Courbet later created a number of other works, as here, depicting nude women lying on beds before windows. (Source: Masterpieces of the National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo, 2009, cat. no.63)


Bischoffsheim Collection, 1882; Henri Garnier Collection; sold at auction through Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, 3-4 December 1894, no. 19; Monsieur Desfosses; sold at auction in Paris, 26 April 1899, no. 21; Monsieur Ernst Cognacq; Gabriel Cognacq; sold Galerie Charpentier, Paris, 14 May 1952, no. 35; Malborough Fine Art, London; Private Collection (Long loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York); Purchased by the NMWA, 1997.

Exhibition History

Exposition des œuvres de Gustave Courbet, Ecole nationale des beaux-arts, Paris, 1882 - 1882, no. 32
Exposition de chefs-d'oeuvre de l'école française vingt peintures du XIXè siècle, Galeries Georges Petit, Paris, 2 May 1910 - 31 May 1910, no. 30
L'art français au service de la science française: exposition d'oeuvres d'art des XVIIIe, XIXe et XXe siècles au profit du Comité national d'aide de la recherche scientifique, 25 April 1923 - 15 May 1923, no. 176
Chefs-d'oeuvre de l'art français, Palais National des Arts, Paris, 1937 - 1937, p. 10 (in the supplement to the catalogue)
Exposition Gustave Courbet, (1819-1877) , Galerie Paul Rosenberg, Paris, 4 May 1937 - 29 May 1937, no. 8
Courbet: exposition du 130e anniversaire de sa naissance, Galerie Alfred Daber, Paris, 10 June 1949 - 9 July 1949, no. 8
Important French Masters, Marborough Fine Art, London, 1953 - 1953, no. 5, repr. p. 4. (under the title, Femme couchée - Le Repos)
Gustave Courbet 1819-1877, Marborough Fine Art, London, 1953 - 1953, no. 11, pp. 30-31, color repr. (under the title, Femme couchée - Le Repos)
Gustave Courbet: 1819-1877, Grand Palais, Paris, 30 September 1977 - 2 January 1978, cat. no. 58, p. 150, repr.
Gustave Courbet: 1819-1877, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 19 January 1978 - 19 March 1978, cat. no. 55, p. 135, repr.
Courbet, l'amour ..., Musée Gustave Courbet, Ornans, 1996 - 1996, été, cat. no. 25, pp. 69, 130, repr.
Expressiveness of Materials, National Museum of Art, Osaka, 17 April 1997 - 22 June 1997, cat. no. 16
Museum Collection, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nantes, 8 March 2005 - 29 May 2005
Le peinture française du XIXe siècle : académisme et modernité, Shimane Art Museum, 6 March 2009 - 31 May 2009, Yokohama Museum of Art, 12 June-31 August, cat. no. 38, col. repr.
NO MUSEUM, NO LIFE?: Art-Museum Encyclopedia to Come: From the Collections of the National Museums of Art, The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, 16 June 2015 - 13 September 2015, cat. no. N-2
Théodore Chassériau: parfum exotique, The National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo, 28 February 2017 - 28 May 2017, cat. no. 49.


Estignard, Alexandre. Courbet sa Vie et ses Œuvres. Besançon, 1897, p. 188.
Meier-Grafe, Julius. Corot und Courbet. 1905, illus. p. 171 (under the title «Le Repos» and the date 1855).
Léger, Charles. Courbet. Paris, 1929, (Collection Maîtres d'Autrefois), p. 84.
Bulletin: Les Amis de Gustave Courbet, 1952, no. 11.
Fernier, Robert. La Vie et l'Œuvre de Gustave Courbet, Catalogue raisonné. tome 1, 1819-1865, Peintures, Geneva, 1977, no. 228, p. 140, illus. p. 141.
Callen, Anthea. Courbet. London, 1980, no. 45, illus. p. 77.
Courtion, Pierre. Tout l'Œuvre peint de Courbet. Paris, 1987, no. 221, p. 84, illus. p. 88.
Annual Bulletin of the National Museum of Western Art. No. 31 (April 1996-March 1997), 1997, Kitazaki, Chikashi. New Acquisitions. pp. 9-11, List of New Acquisitions. p. 24, col. repr.
Kitazaki, Chikashi. Displayed Nude and Landscape, Metonymy of the Gaze in Courbet's Sleeping Nude. Journal of the National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo. no. 2, 1998, pp. 53-73, repr. [with English Abstract]
Masterpieces of The National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo. Tokyo, The National Museum of Western Art; Tokyo, The Western Art Foundation, 2006 (Japanese, preface in Japanese and English), no. 63, col. repr.
Masterpieces of The National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo. Tokyo, The National Museum of Western Art; Tokyo, The Western Art Foundation, 2009, no. 63, col. repr.

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