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




Nana is an example of one of Manet's later works which follows Olympia and Le Dejeuner sur l' Herb. This painting is somewhat less shocking then its predecessors because the courtesan is clothed. Still she remains similar to the other two paintings in her defiant stare and prominence in the painting. The fact that her male caller is such an unimportant part of the composition did cause a stir. For a man to play such a minor role to woman, a courtesan no less, in the same painting was not usually done. This painting gave a name and a face to yet another courtesan as Manet struggled to paint the real people. No one wanted to be reminded of courtesans as real people yet with this painting it is hard to remain ignorant.

Edouard Manet, Nana, 1877 (12. for source click here)

  • Nana is standing infront of a mirror applying make-up
  • Her gentlemen caller is shown only on the very edge of the painting making him less important then the courtesan in the middle. To paint a courtesan being more important then a gentlemen was not usually done.
  • The curved sofa, leading away from the man seems to encompass and frame Nana's body. Making it the center and most important part of this particular painting.
  • Everyone is looking at Nana. The mirror is aimed at her and her caller is looking at her. She in return stared out from the center of the picture with a slight smile.
  • Nana is of course aware of her visitor
  • Nana meets the eye of the viewer. This was scandalous because it suggested that she was equal to the viewer or at the very least not ashamed.
  • The man's cane is a phallic symbol which was often employed at the time.
  • The fact that Manet is putting a face on a courtesan and is moving her into the public eye was not something that was done at the time.
  • Giving the courtesan in this picture a name clearly showed everyone that such people existed at the time. Although everyone knew they hated to be reminded and pretended that prostitution did not exist.
  • Nana seems to reduce the stature and subordinates the attention of her truncated solicitor.

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Visual representations


Le Dejeuner sur l'herb