The middle of the 19th century saw the rise of an aristocracy of prostitutes who swept across the city and resorts in a cloud of diamonds leaving destruction in their wake. These Grandes Horizontales, immortalised in the literature, art and opera of the time, were so expensive that men spent their daughters’ dowries on them, fought duels for their favours and shared them with other men desperate to be seen as so successful that they could afford these fabulous creatures. It was less about sex than sensationalism.
SYLVIA SAGONA is an internationally recognised specialist on 19th century French society. She retired from the French Department at The University of Melbourne to work on historical documentaries for French and Australian television and is currently researching a book on the invention of the restaurant in Paris in the 18th century.
Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (France, 1780–1867) Grande Odalisque, 1814, Louvre Museum, Paris, RF.1158, acquired 1899,