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La Mogador

Page history last edited by Thomas Kutzli 1 month, 3 weeks ago



La Mogador, a prostitute born as Elizabeth Venard and known as Celeste, became one of the most intriguing courtesans of 19th century Paris.


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She made an early impression on the famous poet, Alfred de Musset, with her wit and haughtiness. He sprayed her with most of a bottle of seltzer water and she never forgave him for the slight.


Celeste Registers as a Prostitute

For many, the words “actress” and “prostitute” were synonymous, and Celeste longed to be on the stage, though it was some time before she was able to realise this ambition. Her fame, and her nickname, came instead as a dancer. She was plucked, almost at random, by a dance master at the famous dance hall, the Bal Mabille, to help popularise the brand new polka. She was such as success that the dance master was fighting off suitors just like the French had recently battled Moroccans for the fortress, Mogador. He felt the latter task would have been easier and so dubbed her, “La Mogador.”

Mogador’s next conquest was even more spectacular, as a brilliant equestrienne in the horse races staged at the Hippodrome. When a chariot ran over her leg, it would have ended the career of many a lesser woman. For Mogador, it simply meant a change of career.

The Prostitute Becomes a Courtesan

“A courtesan,” says Joanna Richardson, author of The Courtesans, “is less than a mistress because she sells her love for material benefit; she is more than a prostitute because she chooses her lovers.”

A courtesan was a prostitute, also called a lorette, who had a principal lover, “that is,” the translator of Mogador’s autobiography, Memoirs of a Courtesan explains, “the woman must be talked about as the mistress of ---, even though she might discretely have other lovers. And the difference between the two types of women was formally recognised in this subculture of the demimondaines. For example, some salons did not admit lorettes, but they did courtesans.” The most famous courtesan of the era was Marie Duplessis, immortalised in Dumas' La Dame aux Camelias.


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