Unlike courtesans (see previous blog on the topic here), mistresses were more likely to be married and any economic interaction was less overt, taking the form of gifts rather than money. They were also more likely to be from the same social milieu as their benefactor although their status and that of their husbands would be inferior. Husbands, being aware of the arrangement and probably a beneficiary of it in some way, would resign themselves to it with greater or lesser degrees of enthusiasm depending upon their particular circumstances and the nature of the couple’s own relationship. Mistress relationships tended to be more discreet, stable and contain closer emotional bonds.
In ‘Casanova in Paris’ Pompadour and Boufflers are mistresses who were genuine historic figures (see blogs Madame de Boufflers and Madame de Pompadour). The fictitious Gabrielle, however, offers a different perspective. Far more than is the case today, children were seen as an economic resource for the benefit of their family. Their own individual needs were secondary. It was not uncommon for destitute families to prostitute their daughters and even, in some cases, to sell them. Casanova bought a girl in Russia to be his slave, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau bought a young Venetian girl with the intention of using her for sex when she was older. A central feature of Gabrielle’s character is her assertion of her own individuality and wants over the social expectations of the day. Unlike Boufflers and Pompadour she rejects this potentially very lucrative opportunity (lucrative for both herself and her family). Relative to Boufflers and Pompadour, therefore, this makes her a far more modern, vulnerable character who is out of place in her time and, therefore, a woman that the audience are more likely to relate to and sympathise with.
‘Casanova in Paris: The Shadows of the King’ is freely available here.
27 long form articles on Casanova’s life and times are freely available here.
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