31 July 2010

Demimonde: The Courtesan and Kagema in Art

In the nineteenth century the term Demimonde referred to a group of women who were on the fringe of society. The word meaning half world described the courtesans of wealthy men. Tuscan Virginia Oldoini, Countess di Castiglione (1837-1899) was the mistress of Napoleon III. She is also remembered for her contribution to the early history of photography. French photographer Pierre-Louis Pierson (1822-1913) created 700 photos of the Countess at her direction including what were then risqué images of her naked legs and feet. Another Italian courtesan Veronica Franco (1546–1591), was a poet known for her artistic and intellectual abilities as well as the nature of her profession. She had many important consorts including Henry III of France. Franco is shown in a portrait by Venetian painter Paolo Veronese (1528-1588). Young men were also the subject of wealthy older men's attention. In Japan Kagema were passed off as Kabuki apprentices. They were often depicted in shunga art as in Kitagawa Utamaro's (1753-1806) polychrome print, A male escort charms a client with agreeable conversation.

7 comments:

  1. Another intriguing story! I'm off to read more about Virginia.

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  2. Thank you Alaine, the countess had quite an interesting life and the photos documenting it are stunning. Best, Kendra

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  3. Why Kendra... what a colorful topic you chose for us today? :) Now I am intrigued to dig up the leg photos of the Countess - I had not heard of this before.

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  4. Thank you Author, It is so important that we keep things colorful as you always do in your lovely posts. Best, Kendra

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  5. You're funny....:) What a joy on a Monday!

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  6. Veronica is the most beautiful of the series. That half exhibited nipple is so exciting and today a picture of legs and ankles are too straight. My grandmother, a generation after the countess was consistently gathered in fine clothing, all stitching. very provocative.

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