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Nude Reclining by the Sea

Gustave Courbet, French, 1819 - 1877

Made in France, Europe


Oil on canvas

18 5/16 x 21 7/8 inches (46.5 x 55.6 cm) Frame: 26 1/2 × 30 1/4 inches (67.3 × 76.8 cm)

Curatorial Department:
European Painting

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
The Louis E. Stern Collection, 1963

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Additional information:
  • PublicationMasterpieces from the Philadelphia Museum of Art: Impressionism and Modern Art

    Courbet's paintings of nudes shocked his contemporaries with their naturalism. Unidealized and faithfully depicted, the figures look like ordinary women, which made their nakedness all the more pronounced and disturbing to contemporaries unused to such realism. In Nude Reclining by the Sea, Courbet counters some of this criticism by creating a beautiful but ambiguous picture of a nude woman who is neither a bather nor part of a narrative; in fact, the ships on the horizon seem to suggest that this is an ordinary day by the sea. Sprawled beneath a billowing sail, the woman recalls an odalisque or female slave lying seductively on a fur, yet her pose, with arms raised above her head, was a conventional one for studio models. The juxtaposition of the sea and a nude woman--both thought to be governed by powerful, natural forces--would have been a highly erotic combination for French audiences in the mid-nineteenth century. The small scale and the sensuousness of the picture suggest that rather than creating an intentionally provocative subject, Courbet hoped the work would appeal to a collector. Jennifer A. Thompson, from Masterpieces from the Philadelphia Museum of Art: Impressionism and Modern Art (2007), p. 42.


With Bernheim-Jeune, Paris, 1917; with Paul Rosenberg & Co., Paris, about 1933-34; confiscated by the ERR, 1941 [1]; Hermann Göring collection, selected from the Jeu de Paume September 14, 1941; recovered by the Allies at Berchtesgaden, Germany, May 1945; repatriated to France, April 18, 1946; restituted by the French government to Paul Rosenberg, New York, May 17, 1946-1953 [2]; sold to Louis E. Stern, New York, April 1, 1953 [3]; bequest to PMA, 1963. 1. The ERR was an art-looting task force of the Nazi regime. The painting was assigned the ERR inventory number PR 137 according to a matching ERR card at the National Archives (RG 260, OMGUS Property Division, Misc. Records, ERR Card File, Box 19). The back of the painting is marked "ROSENBERG BORDEAUX", indicating that the painting was seized in April 1941 along with part of Rosenberg's collection stored in a bank vault in Libourne, near Bordeaux. The painting is included on an inventory and appraisal of the Rosenberg Libourne collection, as "Femme nue couchée sur fond de mer" (NARA RG 239, Entry 73, Box 82). Also on one of the stretchers is a typed label, in German, identifying the artist, title, the Rosenberg collection, and the date 2 December 1941 (probably the date on which it was shipped from Paris to Berlin). The ERR card is marked "HG" under the "Whereabouts" (Verbleib) section, indicating that it was selected by Hermann Göring. Other records at the National Archives (see copies in curatorial file provided by Nancy H. Yeide of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.) confirm that Göring selected the painting from the Jeu de Paume on September 14, 1941 and that it was recovered with other objects in Göring's collection at Berchtesgaden in May 1945. It arrived at the Munich Central Collecting Point on August 1, 1945, where it was assigned Mun. no. 6125/Berchtesgaden 1077, and was repatriated to France on April 18, 1946. 2. For the restitution date, see the website Cultural Plunder by the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg: Database of Objects at the Jeu de Paume, A letter dated June 9, 1964 from Alexandre Rosenberg to Henry Gardiner states that "the Courbet was acquired from Bernheim-Jeune, Paris about 1933-34" and that "the picture belongs to the numerous groups of works of art looted during the war by the Germans, and restituted to us in the late forties." PMA Archives, Marceau Object Files; Stern, Louis E. (Collection); Research for Catalogue, H. Clifford plus Brooklyn Museum cat. and PMA Bulletin, 1964. 3. Copy of dated receipt from Paul Rosenberg to Stern in curatorial file.

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