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Fact of the day
Why did Napoleon III whip Courbet's painting?
A well-known story: having seen The Bathers by Gustave Courbet at the Paris Salon of 1853, Napoleon III stroke it with his whip. But why did he do that?

Common version: the emperor was outraged by the rough naturalism: instead of the goddess there was a dumpy peasant with dirty feet.

Alternative version: It wasn't about Courbet at all – that’s how Napoleon responded to his wife’s brilliant joke. The Empress Eugénie accompanied him at the exhibition. After she had been struck by the way Rosa Bonheur endowed her horses with large rumps, it had to be explained to her that these were sturdy percherons and not slim-built chargers. When she reached The Bathers, Eugénie indicated the one who was removing her chemise and revealing her buttocks, and asked with a smile if she was a percheron too. Napoleon III was delighted with the joke and took advantage of it, apparently, by cracking his whip over the painting.
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