Did you know that Avenue de l’Opera used to be called the clitoris of Paris? A venerable tradition! Casanova is very clear on this point: Opera was the place to meet women, particularly the beautiful and easy ones. You did not have to have much talent to sing there. Singing was not all that important. And not much has changed with the Revolution. And with the Restoration, Paris became the main sex-tourism destination of Europe. But this is not the subject of my article. What I would like to discuss is this bed. It’s just the fact that it comes from one of those hot spots, 98 boulevard Malesherbes of the Quartier de l’Opera, brings back memories. So, this bed used to belong to Valtesse de La Bigne, and today they call it by the name of its owner, as if with all the sweat and other bodily fluids the bed has absorbed the very passion and soul of the famous courtesan. Eduard Lièvre had designed it for Valtesse de La Bigne, and a number of reference points he had put in qualify this extraordinary piece of furniture to be a part of Versailles Renaissance movement that I have already mentioned.
So this is a parade bed of the mistress of Napoleon III and it does not go with its side against the wall, but touches the wall with its head only; we see a good number of bronze pieces tied into the wood, which should bring to mind the furniture favored by Marie-Antoinette; finally the bed-frame makes a direct reference to the partition separating the queen, the princess of blood and the ladies-in-waiting from the rest of the crowd present in the bedroom: those who are in and those who are out, the actors and the onlookers. The references are made very much tongue-in-cheek. After all, Valtesse, Votre Altesse — Your Highness, happened to be of a very humble origin, a daughter and a granddaughter of a prostitute, which makes her belonging to that caste also very much hereditary; as for her authority in the alcove matters, it manifests itself horizontally, an allusion to the popular name these women have earned for themselves, Les Grandes Horizontales.