It was controversial from the moment Gustave Courbet put the finishing touches to his oil on canvas of a woman’s genitalia.
Now Facebook is hoping that a California court will take a tougher line than one in France over its decision to remove the profile of a teacher who posted the painting – in what the social media website insists is a breach of its nudity ban.
Frédéric Durand-Baïssas, an art enthusiast, insists the work by the Impressionist painter deserves to be shared on Facebook and is demanding €20,000 (£14,000) in damages as well as the reinstatement of his profile.
Now, four years after the dispute began, Facebook has demanded the case be heard in California, appealing against an earlier ruling ordering the case be decided by a French court – possibly in Paris, home to the painting which hangs in the Musée d’Orsay.
Other Facebook users have posted The Origin of the World, only to be told to take down the painting. Facebook disabled Mr Durand-Baïssas’ profile after receiving a complaint in 2011.
The artwork, painted in 1886, was part of link he shared, redirecting to a documentary on the history of The Origin. The teacher told Europe 1, the radio station, that he was “fighting to defend Courbet, condemned by the Americans”.
His lawyer, Stéphane Cottineau, told the Independent his client felt he was a victim of “prejudice” and had been treated “like a pornographer”. Securing a French hearing, Mr Cottineau said, was the “first of David’s victories against Goliath”.
Facebook says all litigation should take place in California, where it has its headquarters, but 82 per cent of its daily users are based outside the US and Canada.
In 2013 the company forced the Jeu de Paume photography museum in Paris to take down a post showing a portrait of a woman with her breasts exposed, taken by Laure Albin Guillot in 1940.
Updated guidelines state that female nipples are only allowed when “actively engaged in breastfeeding”.