In the 19th century there was a lot of prostitution in Paris, and in all layers of society.
There were poor women who had a job, but did not earn enough money and had to become prostitutes to earn a living for their families.
There were also girls who worked in the theatre or the opera, who went home with gentlemen, in the hope of a better future.
And at the very top you had the grande horizontales, the courtesans who were mistresses of wealthy men and who took their place in high society without shame.
Streetprostitution was allowed from the moment the streetlights were on and when a woman was sitting in a café on her own it was also clear what she was.
The police tried to make some regulations and had registers of all known prostitutes, women who worked in brothels had to have regular medical examinations and women who contracted syphilis were locked up.
This world always fascinated the artists. First they could only paint aspects of it, or show things in a subtle manner. Only if you looked really closely you would know what was behind the painting of the poor woman sitting on a bench and the two gentlemen watching her.
But later the painters could be more bold and show what they saw in the cafés and the brothels.
The exhibition Easy virtue in the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam gives a wonderful overview of the world of prostitution in the 19th century. There are paintings by Edvard Munch, Vincent van Gogh, Henri Toulouse Lautrec, Kees van Dongen Pablo Picasso and of course Edgar Degas.
|Portrait of Julia Tahl by Carolus Duran|
In this exhibition you can see all aspects, from the downtrodden whores who sit in a café with a glass of absinth, waiting for their next customer, to the triumphant courtesan who knows what she is worth.
There are also the registers of the police with all the known prostitutes, the 19th century make-up the ladies wore to distinguish themselves from the other ladies on the streets, all give this very interesting and beautiful exhibition that little bit extra.
Easy virtue can be seen until June 19th, 2016
As taking photographs was not permitted, these are photographs of the postcards I bought.