Discover more from A Writer's Notebook
Courtesan Update: An identity confirmed!
For my most recent Book of the Courtesans post, I tried my best to paint a portrait of a woman whose police file revealed very little about her. Unlike other women whose lives were caught in the nets of the vice squad, Clémence Andrieux managed to remain relatively discreet. She lived on a respectable street. Her name was not linked to any prominent male protectors. She was not embroiled in any court cases related to prostitution or pimping, and her name was never dragged through the papers. After searching through the 19th century photo archives at the BNF and the Musée Carnavalet, I found a few photos of women with the last name of Andrieu or Andrieux, and one possible subject with the first name Clémence, but I didn’t feel confident enough to make an identification. However, I have finally received a high resolution reproduction of one of the photos from the BNF, and think it’s safe to say that we have found our woman!
When compared with the other photo of a woman called Clémence, we can plainly see that they are the same person. They have the same almond-shaped eyes, the same dark curly hair, the same lips, eyebrows, face shape, and chin. The photographers are different, and have lit her face in different ways, but it is her.
On the left, she’s shown in what might be a Cupid costume—note the heart-shaped shield and spear—and indeed she may have played Cupid in a production of Offenbach’s Orphée aux Enfers. But the “costume” itself seems a little thrown together, with no wings. Since no record of her acting career remains in the newspaper or theatrical archives, it’s possible these props—and maybe that delightful party hat as well—were simply part of this photography studio’s costume trunk.
It makes such a difference when we can put a face to these stories, and I’m glad to have discovered the sly smile and sparkling eyes of Clémence Andrieux, the young woman who lived by her charms. Maybe one day we’ll find out more about what happened to her.
You can read Clémence’s story here. The post has been updated to reflect the new information.
Thank you, as always, for supporting this project.