Musée des Arts Décoratifs — The Bedroom of Émilie-Louise Delabigne

This is so…French.

For me, the most interesting period room in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs was the bedroom of Émilie-Louise Delabigne, actress, art collector, and one of the most successful courtesans in 19th century Paris.

She began as a street prostitute, after being raped at 13.

Her social ascent resembled the plot of a 1930s Joan Crawford movie.

She became the mistress of composer Jacques Offenbach, and acted in his productions. Through him, she met Zola, Flaubert and Maupassant.  Delabigne left Offenbach for a succession of rich and titled lovers.  She was painted by Édouard Manet and Henri Gervex, who were among the many artists she took to her bed.

She was the inspiration for Émile Zola’s Nana.  In the book, he describes the bed in the pictures below as “A bed such as has never existed, a throne, an altar where Paris came to admire her sovereign nudity.”   Delabigne herself left the bed to the Musée des Arts Décoratifs.

She famously turned down Alexandre Dumas fils, telling him: “Dear sir, it’s not within your means!”


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