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New Rules for Old Age: Gavarni, the Goncourts, and Les Lorettes Vieillies

This article examines caricaturist Paul Gavarni’s lithographic series, Les Lorettes vieillies, and Jules and Edmond de Goncourt’s short text, La Lorette, as two conflicting visions of the lorette, a type of nineteenth-century prostitute celebrated in literary and visual sources. The Goncourts’ text has previously been studied for its explicit aim to break the rules around representing the lorette; however, I propose here that Gavarni’s little-known images were in fact more radical. Exploring the ways in which Les Lorettes vieillies humanizes the experience of the ageing lorette, a taboo topic in other sources, I show how the series challenges society’s norms around age and gender. Finally, I suggest that we should consider Les Lorettes vieillies, published at the same time and in the same newspaper as La Lorette, as an important intertext informing the Goncourts’ own presentation of the lorette as a transgressive figure.
Relevant research areas: Western Europe, 19th Century, Lithography