Open day at the maisons closes
Prostitution was more or less tolerated in France from the reign of Louis XV up until 1804, although it did become more strictly controlled as time went on. Louis XVI proved a little less tolerant, with prostitutes being sent either to prison or to the hospital during his reign.
As of October 1804, under the rule of Napoleon, the industry became well and truly regulated.
The “girls” were removed from the streets, registered with the police, and worked from that point forward in licensed brothels referred to as maisons closes (closed houses) or maisons de tolérance (houses of tolerance).
Houses with discreet façades and of different social standings, from the luxurious lupanar to the popular brothel...
Transactions there were like those in a casino – no money changed hands. Only the madam held the purse strings and supplied the clients with tokens in exchange for cash. These tokens were given to the prostitute as payment for her services, and she returned them to the madam when the time came to settle the accounts.
The tokens also functioned as advertising inserts. In this way, one frequented the very famous Aux Belles Poules of the Rue Blondel in Paris, the Maison Marquise of Nîmes run by Madame Caro, or even the Paradis du Cap d’Ail, which guaranteed discretion and security in exchange for an entry token.
In Rue Saint-Lazare in Paris, Madame Liane offered massages from 10:00 a.m. to 7 p.m. for a fixed price. And at La Florida in Dijon, it was Madame de Los Dolores who welcomed you in all discretion.
It was in 1946, following the Second World War, that some of the 1,400 licensed brothels in France were closed definitively after the passing of the Loi Marthe Richard.
Since then, these tokens have become collector’s items in their own right, many of them highly sought after.
Painting: “Idle Woman (La Perezosa)” by Daniel Hernández Morillo (1906)