The Book of Courtesans

“The Book of courtesans – A catalog of his virtues” of American Susan Griffin.

They were never prostitutes only, but also could not be classified as simple concubines. Women educated, powerful, rich and expert in the art of love, courtesans were more respected than official wives and never bowed to please her suitors. On the contrary, wove its web in various segments of society, from the Roman Empire to the belle époque Paris, influencing power of men in hard daily exercise of decision making. In “The Book of courtesans – A catalog of his virtues,” the author Susan Griffin traces the roots of the oldest profession in the world, recreating the lifestyle of some of the most famous courtesans of all time.

Imperia, in imperial Rome, Madame de Pompadour, Ninon de Lenclos and Veronica Franco. They could have been good housewives, mothers and true nullities in the society in which they lived. Preferred, however, use the brain and the body God has given them to better things, like trying to gender equality in the world of men, which would be impossible if they chose to become professional housewives. Veronica Franco, value poet, served in fifteenth century Venice, amassed incredible wealth and advised politicians from different chains.

The famous Madame de Pompadour was a favorite of Louis XV and had enough influence over the king of France to indicate ministers and order arrests. This, at a time when women were mere accessory, relegated to the role of replication, where machismo was total. Of course, Madame de Pompadour knew how to charge for advice that led to the monarch. Since the first meetings, the coccote tried to accumulate assets that would be the envy of many noble ladies. It was one of the richest women of her time, losing perhaps only to the queen.

Madame de Pompadour, as well as the most famous courtesans, did not come from high society. Far from it. It is said that, in general, were poor girls who worked hard to survive. The luck that had exchanged the life of a laundress, housekeeper or maid for the prestige of being supported by one or more men. Break, could study, go to society and change their destinations. It is in this aspect that the book gains many points, mainly because, as suggested by the subtitle, has the qualities (boldness, joy, intelligence, grace, charm, guile, good humor …) necessary for the proper exercise of the profession and real survival they had to have virtues.

Faced with the “lessons”, the reader finds delicious cases of the characters. As the French courtesan known as Lantelme, who said, point-blank, the wife lover:. “My dear, you can keep it under three conditions I want the pearl necklace that you are using, a million francs … and you “. Another great character, Caroline Otero, also yields broad laughter. Obliged to give up her seat in the theater to the Czar of Russia, she muttered an economic measure, “Okay, I leave But never like caviar.”.

The period of European monarchy surpasses any other time frame, but there are also the crazy years of the belle époque of the Old World and the United States. Marion Davis – actress of little talent whose career was sponsored by the US communications magnate, William Randolf Hearst, personality that inspired the protagonist of Citizen Kane – is an example of the performance of the courtesans in the “modern life”. The cabarets of Berlin of the 20s and the Folies-Bergère behind the scenes also turned scenario, showing that the function served as a springboard for social ascent of several talented women who would become important in the art world, such as Chanel and Sarah Bernhardt.


The Marquise de Pompadour, circa 1758


Sarah Bernhardt, 1860


Nana, 1877, by Édouard Manet


Lola Montes, circa 1860


Cleo de Merode, 1901, by Giovanni Boldini


Mata Hari, circa 1905


La Belle Otero, circa 1907


Leslie Caron as Gigi, 1957


Onella Muti as Odette de Crecy in Swann in Love, 1984



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