Courtesans in Reality

Literary Representations
Lorettes and society

Lower Class Prostitutes and the Law
Representations in Les Miserables
Realities of Authority in Paris
Brothels and Streetwalkers

The Privileged Class: Courtesans

Defining the courtesan
Visual representations
Courtesans in reality





It is possible to find a veritable cornucopia of different depictions of prostitutes and courtesans from the nineteenth-century. The problem lies within the fact that it is not always possible to tell where the portrayal came from. Perhaps the person writing about prostitution had a negative view on it and therefore would portray them with a negative bias. The fact is that quite a lot of the gentlemen from the eighteen-hundreds had mistresses or used prostitutes on a shockingly regular basis. Some of these men knew a lot about the world of prostitution and had a sympathetic view of the hard times that some women fell upon. These men were sure to portray courtesans and others in a much kinder light. Probably largely due to the fact that so many men were in some type of arrangement with prostitutes of all different classes, many of the portrayals are kind and sympathetic to the plight of a woman who had no way to support herself lest she became a woman of the night.

Highly acclaimed French writers Victor Hugo, and Alexandre Dumas, as well as the artist Toulouse-Lautrec, all were familiar with courtesans and prostitutes. The following pages will explore the ways in which these prominent and recognized men portrayed the women that they cam into contact with seemingly quite regularly.

Click here to go to: