This was an artist who was most famous for his nude portraits, and also the stunning honesty in which he delivered them. Whilst he impressed in other genres, including landscapes and seascapes, it was the female anatomy that most inspired his creative mind. The painting was involved in a political crisis at one point between the American and Slovakian governments over who would be the rightful owners. Eventually this issue was solved and compensation paid. It was then recently sold to a private purchaser in 2015 for over $15m, a huge amount in comparison to previous sales of Courbet's paintings.
In this scene you will find a young woman lying back on a couch, wearing just stockings and shoes. Some thick curtains sit behind her, moved slightly across in order to reveal a sky scene in the distance. Elements of this painting suggest a number of different influences but the clearest would have to be Francisco de Goya's La maja desnuda which features a similar pose and also balance of light. Goya himself was a particularly famous portrait painter and Courbet was known to have studied several Spanish artists in great detail, also including Diego Velazquez.
It is rare for paintings such as this to come up for sale in the modern era, hence the huge price tag that it received. Most of this artist's work can be found in major art galleries of France and the United States, who are unlikely to ever sell them on. Some consider art history as an investment opportunity, with rarity and fame dictating price. Courbet himself is a particularly significant figure within French art and appears likely to enjoy a strong reputation for many generations to come.