The erotic picture “The Sleepers” was painted by the Western European artist Gustave Kurbe in 1866 by order of a diplomat from the Ottoman Empire, who at that time lived in Paris. The plot is based on two completely naked women, a blonde and a brunette, hugging a white sheet. Their general appearance and posture, as well as some other individual details of the image, clearly indicate that the picture shows lesbians. The figures of women are deployed in such a way that the breasts, thighs and buttocks turn out to be the most visible and distinctly written out, which indicates a high eroticism of the whole composition.
The appearance of this canvas, which was immediately perceived as innovative and beyond the traditional concept of morality, caused extreme disapproval of a large part of French society. The writer Alexander Dumas Jr., who was familiar with this picture, called the author a bastard and described him as “the embodiment of the idiotic and powerless,” far from any humanity and high art. After wide condemnation in the press, “Sleepers”, like another Courbet’s work “The Origin of the World”, where the artist depicted the female genitals close-up, was hidden for a long time in private collections in Paris and was not exhibited to the public until the end of the twentieth century.
Since the 1980s the picture of Courbet, recognized by the heritage of European art, became available to visitors. Many modern researchers have noted the great artistic value of the canvas, as well as a number of other scandalous works of the artist, from which the development of a new, realistic trend in painting begins.