Lacan, the last owner of Courbet s The Origin of the World, loved the painting so much that he couldn t even bring himself to look at it. Instead, he hid it behind a safer painting. The Chinese called it the valley of the roses (watch out for the thorns!), the Persians, the honey-pot (watch out for the bees!), and the Greeks, the mound of Venus (mind the steep climb!); to each era its fantasies and its theories about the feminine mystique. Then there are the testimonies of poets, painters, and even of some famous psychiatrists. The Origin of the World is a work of art only suitable for lovers of intrigue.