'The Pretty Women of Paris': Prostitutes pose for photos in 19th Century handbook where France's 'best courtesans' listed their 'sexual specialities'

With clients that included princes, artists and a future King of England, these are the women who ruled Paris from their bed.
Fascinating pictures reveal the prostitutes who featured in 'The Pretty Women of Paris' - the nineteenth century directory for the French capital's best courtesans and brothels.
Published in 1883 and limited to 169 copies, the notorious guide listed the names of the city's most famous scarlet women - along with their addresses, qualities and faults.

All of these women featured in an 1883 booklet entitled Pretty Women Of Paris, which served as a guide to the city's prostitutes for visiting English gentlemen. Leontine Massin, one of France's most famous prostitutes who once bedded Edward VII, the future King of England. She was described as being 'short, plump, and chubby, with lovely blue eyes, fair hair and complexion and spending pulpy lips that she is always biting and licking with her rosy tongue’. 

Louise Valtesse, 'she allows herself to be rummaged by anybody, and takes what she can get, refusing no man ... Valtesse is one of the most handsome and clever of the whores of our time,' it says. She amassed a fortune of $3million in today's money

Prostitution became legal in France in 1804 under Napoleon, who ordered that all sex workers had to register and submit to fortnightly health checks. Cora Pearl, a British-born prostitute. The guide says 'she was once served up naked, with a sprinkling of parsley, upon an enormous dish borne by four men'. Cora dressed creatively, with the intent to provoke either shock or awe, and dyed her hair with bold colours. She was once seen riding out in her carriage, her hair dyed to match the carriage's yellow satin interior. She also appeared in a blue gown, with her dog’s coat colored to match

By 1809 there were officially 180 brothels in Paris alone, although the true number was likely far higher. Alice Loady who could be found at 12 Rue D'Edimbourg. Alice was an acting prodigy and was rushed onto the stage by her parents when she was 18 years old. The guide says that 'lovers of early delicacies pursued her as madly as dogs after a heated b****, and she was soon crushed beneath the sweating bodies of elderly amateurs with disgusting leches but full purses.' It adds: 'For money she will do all you may ask her'

By law French brothels had to be run by a woman, typically a former prostitute. Jeanne Aladie, whose 'low tastes, arising from her early education, will amuse those whose palates are satiated with finely prepared dishes,' the guide says.

 Delphine Delizy, who 'is thirty-eight, but we are duty bound to state that she is still of very appetising aspect .... and there is nothing in the whole catalogue of Cupid's diversions that she has not done'

The Paris guide was divided by district, allowing gentlemen to easily find the women they were after. Leonide Leblanc, of 1 Rue d'Offemont. The guide says 'it is difficult to do justice to such a celebrated whore ... she has charmed a generation and every notable rake has passed at least one night in her arms.' It adds: 'By 1864, she had already gone through several fortunes. She ate a pennyworth of fried potatoes with one admirer, and truffles the following week with another'

Marguerite Baretti, of 46 Rue Du Faubourg Poissonniere. For those acquiring her services, it was said 'you will find yourself looking at a tall, dark, elegant young woman, with smiling mouth, handsome nose and a dainty chin with a tiny dimple'. It adds 'her principal lover is a young banker, who is too sensible to be jealous … and if a client has a good voice, he had better join in at once, when a most enchanting trio may be performed with her sister'

Alice Marot, of 4 Rue De Marignan, who is described as a 'sprightly, fair, little whore [who] has been very lucky. After a more than usually chequered career upon the boards of provincial theatres, she came to Paris, and at the Palais Royal Theatre enlarged the circle of her lovers'

Ellen Andree, also of the Palais Royal Theatre. It is written in the guide that 'she takes many lovers especially artists in the capital city and is happy to be seen minimal clothing'

Julia de Clery, of 16 Place Du Havre, who 'was a member of Les Rieuses (the Merry Women) - a lesbian association entirely composed of Parisian actresses, which held monthly dinners from which men were excluded and after which they spent the night together.' 

The front cover of the pamphlet
'The Pretty Women of Paris': Prostitutes pose for photos in 19th Century handbook where France's 'best courtesans' listed their 'sexual specialities' 'The Pretty Women of Paris': Prostitutes pose for photos in 19th Century handbook where France's 'best courtesans' listed their 'sexual specialities' Reviewed by Your Destination on March 22, 2018 Rating: 5

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