Courtesans

Comfort and Lifestyle

Literary Representations
Hugo
Balzac
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

 

Bibliogrpahy

 

 

"You have only seen the lowest classes of these women, the ugly ones or the dumb ones. But myself, I've known some who have made small fortunes, have beautiful apartments, jewels, carriages and who know only people of the highest society. If I were as pretty as you the matter would be as good as settled." (15. for source click here)

Many women turned to prostitution out of desperation. These women needed money so badly that they were willing to become social pariahs if it meant that they could support themselves. These were generally women who had fallen on hard times. Then there were courtesans. These women did not choose this lifestyle out of desperation, or at least no the same type. These women chose to do this because it allowed them to live in such a way that was enviable to many.

Courtesans only stayed with a lover if they could provide them with a certain standard of living. If they could not then the woman would simply take a different lover. For what ever reason they were desirable, be it beauty or whit or even knowledge these women used their assets to gain a style of living that was extremely comfortable. As well as jewels, courtesans also received the money with which to provide housing which could be decorated in any style and degree that they desired. Everything was provided for them and all that was required of them was to entertain the men in any area he wished, whether it be intellectual or sexual.

Olympia by Edouard Manet, 1863.(14.for source click here)

The image seems to be portraying courtesans as people of leisure. Notice that the woman is reclining in luxurious surroundings as a miad presents her with a boquet. The courtesanseems to be lying in the lap of luxury and to be enjoying the comfort that her lifestyle provides her with. For a thourough look at this image click here.

Courtesans enjoyed such a comfortable lifestyle that they were often able to blend into society as wealthy bourgeoisie. They frequented the same hot-spots and lived in the same manner as did the upper class of the time. All that separated them was the fact that the upper class gained its money through inheritance and or working in socially acceptable jobs, whereas courtesans gained their wealth by selling their bodies.

Some women who were married took lovers who would buy them things. These women were able to have the best of both worlds in the stability of a husband and the constant influx of riches from their lovers.

In general courtesans were to be envied. Although they did exist by performing a socially stigmatized form of work they were able to live in extreme comfort and enjoy the lifestyle that they wanted. They would have several apartments, jewels, carriages and random other gifts for as long as they chose to stay with one benefactor. Them moment they were tired of any man they simply switched to another and retained their lifestyle in the comfort that they were accustomed to.

Click here to learn more about: